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Leinster Bring In Adam Byrne, O’Loughlin And Conan

Leinster Bring In Adam Byrne, O’Loughlin And Conan

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has added Adam Byrne, Rory O’Loughlin and Jack Conan to the starting XV for Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup round 4 match against Bath at the Aviva Stadium (kick-off 5.30pm).

Following their hard-fought 17-10 away victory last weekend, the defending champions are hoping to close the gap on Pool 1 leaders Toulouse, while Bath need a win in Dublin to stay in the quarter-final hunt heading into the final two rounds.

With over 43,000 tickets sold there is sure to be another brilliant atmosphere at the province’s traditional European game at Irish Rugby HQ before Christmas. Two of Leinster’s three personnel changes are in the back-line.

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Adam Byrne and Rory O’Loughlin come in to replace Rob Kearney and Noel Reid, with the latter dropping back to the bench. The back-three now features Jordan Larmour, the scorer of that crucial intercept try at the Recreation Ground, at full-back, the incoming Byrne on the right wing and James Lowe on the left.

O’Loughlin gets the nod for his first Champions Cup start since January 2017, combining with Garry Ringrose at centre. It will be O’Loughlin’s 50th senior appearance for Leinster, while captain Jonathan Sexton has overcome a calf injury to start at half-back alongside Luke McGrath.

The tight five of Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Tadhg Furlong, James Ryan, who was the man-of-the-match in round 3, and Devin Toner is unchanged. They will be supported by a back row which is anchored by Jack Conan at number 8, with Dan Leavy switching to the blindside berth and Josh van der Flier continuing at openside.

Speaking ahead of the return fixture with Bath, Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster said: “It’s all about getting into the quarter-finals in Europe and getting a home quarter-final if you can. That’s the first priority for us but we’ve still got quite a bit of work to do to achieve that, particularly on the back of the Toulouse defeat.

“We could lose at the Aviva at the weekend and be on 10 points, Bath could be on 10 points and Toulouse could be on 17. You’re going to have to be getting 18 points as a minimum to qualify for the quarter-finals, I would say.

“Then you’ve got Toulouse at home and you’ve got Wasps away in January in the final rounds of the pool stages. You’re leaving your margin for error very fine if you do that so it’s a huge game for us on Saturday night.”

He added: “I think we’re in a good place. If you look at the Conference table in the PRO14 and what we’ve achieved, we’re ahead of where we were this time last year. We’re pleased with our form so far. We recognise we need to be better this week because we felt a little bit off against Bath last Saturday.”

Tickets for the much-anticipated rematch between Leinster and Bath at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening are available to buy online here via Ticketmaster.ie.

LEINSTER (v Bath): Jordan Larmour; Adam Byrne, Garry Ringrose, Rory O’Loughlin, James Lowe; Jonathan Sexton (capt), Luke McGrath; Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Tadhg Furlong, Devin Toner, James Ryan, Dan Leavy, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.

Replacements: James Tracy, Ed Byrne, Andrew Porter, Ross Molony, Rhys Ruddock, Jamison Gibson-Park, Ross Byrne, Noel Reid.