Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has made nine personnel changes to the team to play the Dragons in Friday’s GUINNESS PRO14 match at the RDS (kick-off 7.35pm).
Included among the alterations from last weekend’s 3-0 away win over Zebre is Devin Toner who captains the province for only the second time. There are first starts for Academy lock Ryan Baird and out-half Harry Byrne.
Jimmy and Conor O’Brien are brought into the back-line, the latter making his first start of the season in midfield alongside Rory O’Loughlin. The 20-year-old Byrne partners Jamison Gibson-Park at half-back and Dave Kearney and Jame Lowe start on either wing.
Ronan Kelleher joins props Peter Dooley and Michael Bent in the front row, behind them is the new-look second row pairing of Toner and Baird, and Caelan Doris is added to the back row alongside Max Deegan, who reverts to the blindside, and Scott Penny.
There is a potential debut from the bench for 20-year-old former Ireland underage prop Jack Aungier, while out-half Ciaran Frawley is set for a welcome return from an ankle ligament injury in what will be his first competitive outing of the season.
Speaking ahead of the round 5 fixture, Cullen told Leinster Rugby TV: “We’ve had two good outings at the RDS so far. We started the season against Treviso. The performance was probably a little bit mixed, it’s fair to say. Then we had two really good outings at the RDS.
“The players tend to feed off the energy they get from the crowd. We’ll be hoping for something similar on Friday against Dragons. The game against Zebre (last Saturday) is clearly far from a classic. Ultimately, we just need to look at ourselves in terms of our own performance and how we can get a little bit better.
“I think there’s plenty of scope for that. We’re all excited to get back to the RDS and put on a performance in front of our home support. Hopefully, we’ll get a decent turnout.
“Dragons, with the team that they have, they have a very settled starting XV. They’ll have a lot of confidence from last weekend. A big win for them against Glasgow. They put 50 points on Zebre who we could only score three points against at the same ground.
“They’re a well-coached team. Dean Ryan has come in at the end of last season, so there’s a fresh optimism there. You get that lift from when a new coach comes in. It’s going to be a good challenge for our guys.”
Tickets for Friday night’s meeting of Leinster and the Dragons are the RDS are available online from €26.
LEINSTER (v Dragons): Jimmy O’Brien; Dave Kearney, Rory O’Loughlin, Conor O’Brien, James Lowe; Harry Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Peter Dooley, Ronan Kelleher, Michael Bent, Devin Toner (capt), Ryan Baird, Max Deegan, Scott Penny, Caelan Doris.
Replacements: James Tracy, Michael Milne, Jack Aungier, Ross Molony, Will Connors, Hugh O’Sullivan, Ciaran Frawley, Cian Kelleher.