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Ross Byrne To Captain Leinster For The First Time

Ross Byrne To Captain Leinster For The First Time

Young out-half Ross Byrne lines up a penalty during Leinster's Heineken Champions Cup semi-final victory over Toulouse last Sunday ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

It is all change for the Leinster team with none of the starting XV from their Heineken Champions Cup semi-final win included for Saturday’s GUINNESS PRO14 derby trip to Kingspan Stadium to play Ulster (kick-off 5.15pm).

Michael Bent, Max Deegan, Caelan Doris and Ross Byrne are promoted from the bench, with 24-year-old out-half Byrne captaining the province for the first time. The Conference B winners are resting players ahead of the Champions Cup final against Saracens and their home PRO14 semi-final.

Byrne, who is partnered by Nick McCarthy at half-back, has made 68 provincial appearances to date. His tally of 368 points is the eighth highest haul of all-time at Leinster – he needs five more points against Ulster this weekend to go ahead of Alan McGowan (372) on the province’s list of top points scorers.

Elsewhere in the back-line, experienced wingers Dave Kearney and Fergus McFadden join 22-year-old Kildare youngster Jimmy O’Brien in the back-three, while Joe Tomane and Noel Reid, who is leaving to take up a contract with Leicester Tigers in the summer, will be the table toppers’ starting centres in Belfast.

Ahead of his own impending move to Ulster, Jack McGrath will pack down against his future team-mates. The visitors’ tight five is completed by Bryan Byrne, Bent, Josh Murphy and 21-year-old Academy lock Oisin Dowling who makes his first senior start after three appearances off the bench since January.

Will Connors continues his return from an ACL injury in the back row alongside Deegan and Doris, who both came off the bench against Toulouse last Sunday. If Ireland Under-20 Grand Slam winner Ryan Baird makes his senior debut as a replacement, he will become the 57th player used by the Leinster management this season.

LEINSTER (v Ulster): Jimmy O’Brien; Fergus McFadden, Joe Tomane, Noel Reid, Dave Kearney; Ross Byrne (capt), Nick McCarthy; Jack McGrath, Bryan Byrne, Michael Bent, Josh Murphy, Oisin Dowling, Max Deegan, Will Connors, Caelan Doris.

Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Peter Dooley, Vakh Abdaladze, Ryan Baird, Scott Penny, Paddy Patterson, Ciaran Frawley, Barry Daly.