Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has made seven personnel changes to the team for Sunday’s GUINNESS PRO14 clash with the Isuzu Southern Kings at Madibaz Stadium in Port Elizabeth (kick-off 2.45pm local time/12.45pm Irish time).
Scott Fardy will captain the province for the first time in a competitive fixture, starting in the second row alongside Ross Molony. Australian international Fardy has made 28 appearances and scored five tries since joining Leinster in 2017.
Dave Kearney returns from an adductor injury to make his first start since the home victory over the Dragons in September. Adam Byrne and Joe Tomane, who opened his try-scoring account in the 31-3 bonus point win in Treviso, retain their places in the back-three from last week.
Rory O’Loughlin once again starts at outside centre, while Mullingar native Conor O’Brien, who scored his first senior try off the bench against Benetton Rugby, starts in the number 12 shirt. The final change to the back-line sees Noel Reid come in to start at out-half alongside Jamison Gibson-Park.
There are two changes to the front row as Ed Byrne and Michael Bent come in to join forces with hooker James Tracy. Skipper Fardy swaps from the loosehead side to tighthead in the engine room, with the 24-year-old Molony taking over from James Ryan.
Josh Murphy wears the number 6 jersey with Sean O’Brien also among the Ireland contingent unavailable for the round 8 trip to South Africa. Dan Leavy, O’Brien’s international colleague, and Max Deegan keep their starting places from the Treviso game.
On the bench, Vakh Abdaladze, Ciaran Frawley and Tom Daly are all in line to make their first senior appearances of the season for Leinster. Notably, all eight replacements were part of the Leinster ‘A’ squad that defeated Scarlets ‘A’ in the inaugural Celtic Cup final in Llanelli two weeks ago.
LEINSTER (v Isuzu Southern Kings): Dave Kearney; Adam Byrne, Rory O’Loughlin, Conor O’Brien, Joe Tomane; Noel Reid, Jamison Gibson-Park; Ed Byrne, James Tracy, Michael Bent, Ross Molony, Scott Fardy (capt), Josh Murphy, Dan Leavy, Max Deegan.
Replacements: Bryan Byrne, Peter Dooley, Vakh Abdaladze, Mick Kearney, Caelan Doris, Hugh O’Sullivan, Ciaran Frawley, Tom Daly.