Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has changed his full team from last Saturday’s win away to the Dragons, bringing a raft of Ireland internationals back in to face Bath in round 3 of the Heineken Champions Cup at the Recreation Ground on Saturday (kick-off 3.15pm).
There is a return for a host of players from Ireland’s successful November campaign and some returning from injury. Rob Kearney starts at full-back for his 203rd Leinster appearance with Jordan Larmour on the right wing and James Lowe on the left.
With Robbie Henshaw and Joe Tomane both sidelined through injury, Noel Reid will partner Garry Ringrose in the centre as one of two personnel changes to the back-line from the 28-27 defeat to Toulouse in October. Jonathan Sexton captains the side from half-back alongside Luke McGrath.
There is one change up front from the Toulouse game last time out in Europe, with the fit-again Dan Leavy starting at number 8 and Jack Conan providing back-up on the bench. Rhys Ruddock, who captained Ireland to two wins last month, and Josh van der Flier complete the back row.
The tight five features Cian Healy, Sean Cronin and Tadhg Furlong, as well as Devin Toner and James Ryan, the starting locks from Ireland’s historic victory over New Zealand a few weeks ago. The front row reserves include Carlow native Ed Byrne who is in line to make his European debut.
The 25-year-old Byrne, a Leinster debutant back in 2014, has been blighted by injury and missed 28 months with two separate knee injuries. The loosehead has hit some very good form over the last twelve months with 23 games played in that time. Rory O’Loughlin is also back from injury to take his place on the bench.
Looking forward to locking horns with Bath, head coach Leo Cullen said: “A lot of players have come back who haven’t played since that day (against Toulouse) so it’s been good having everyone back together. We’ve watched on with great admiration while the guys have represented Ireland as well during this period.
“That’s a very important part for us as a club from a province point of view. For us as coaches and a club, we’ve been very much focused on this back-to-back against Bath for a whole host of different reasons. Every week we focus on our performance – how do we get better? Whether we win or we lose.
“We’ve had a couple reminders this year already what it feels like when we lose and it’s not particularly enjoyable. The group is pretty motivated I think at the moment but we’re not underestimating the challenge either.
“It’s a great challenge away from home. There’s a huge amount at stake for us as a group. Everyone’s hungry to be successful in this tournament, and wants to do well and wants to represent the team well. It’s a huge period for us.”
LEINSTER (v Bath): Rob Kearney; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Noel Reid, James Lowe; Jonathan Sexton (capt), Luke McGrath; Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Tadhg Furlong, Devin Toner, James Ryan, Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier, Dan Leavy.
Replacements: James Tracy, Ed Byrne, Andrew Porter, Ross Molony, Jack Conan, Jamison Gibson-Park, Ross Byrne, Rory O’Loughlin.