Captain Jonathan Sexton and fellow Ireland internationals Robbie Henshaw and Devin Toner will all start for Leinster in Sunday’s Heineken Champions Cup semi-final against Toulouse at the Aviva Stadium (kick-off 3.15pm).
The defending champions have been able to select the fit-again trio, with Sexton back from a quad injury, while centre Henshaw and lock Toner proved their fitness during last weekend’s GUINNESS PRO14 encounter with Glasgow Warriors.
Head coach Leo Cullen has made five personnel changes and one positional switch to the team that started the 21-18 quarter-final victory over Ulster at the same venue three weeks ago. Rob Kearney returns at full-back on the back of a two-try performance against Glasgow.
Sexton and Henshaw slot back in with Ross Byrne and Rory O’Loughlin dropping down to the bench. Kearney’s inclusion sees Jordan Larmour revert to the right wing with James Lowe, who has scored three tries in his last five games, chosen on the left.
The addition of Toner to the second row is the only change up front, the province fielding an all-Ireland international pack which includes tighthead Tadhg Furlong on his 99th appearance. Tullow man Sean O’Brien continues at openside flanker, making his third start in four matches.
Outside centre Garry Ringrose was Leinster’s man-of-the-match in their 29-13 pool win over Toulouse at the RDS in January. He says they are ‘two teams who want to make history by aiming for a fifth title’. “It will be a huge motivation for all the players,” noted the 24-year-old.
We saw in the pool phase that Toulouse are a very difficult team to beat. They have a lot of experience in this competition and are dangerous in all positions. All the team are playing well, but we have to keep an eye out for (Cheslin) Kolbe, who has scored some incredible tries this season.
“It will be a big challenge. At the beginning of the season we knew it would be difficult to retain our title. We need to continuously try to improve to be always the best.
“We are really disappointed by our recent results (against Benetton and Glasgow). We encountered the same kind of situation last year, but the squad knew how to rally themselves for the end of the season. We aren’t worried about that and above all we want to show our other face in the European Cup.”
Tickets for the Champions Cup semi-final between Leinster and Toulouse are on sale online here.
LEINSTER (v Toulouse): Rob Kearney; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Jonathan Sexton (capt), Luke McGrath; Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Tadhg Furlong, Devin Toner, James Ryan, Rhys Ruddock, Sean O’Brien, Jack Conan.
Replacements: James Tracy, Ed Byrne, Michael Bent, Scott Fardy, Max Deegan, Hugh O’Sullivan, Ross Byrne, Rory O’Loughlin.