The Leinster team to face provincial rivals Connacht at the Sportsground in Friday’s GUINNESS PRO14 derby (kick-off 7.35pm) has been announced by head coach Leo Cullen. Click here to buy tickets.
He has made 11 personnel changes to the side that accounted for the Dragons 50-15 at the RDS last weekend. He also has two players making a return from injury and welcomes back six players that were away in Japan with Ireland most recently.
Hugo Keenan returns to the starting XV as he has recovered from the ankle injury picked up in the away win against Zebre, while Adam Byrne comes in on the right wing and James Lowe continues on the left as the only starting back retained.
Joe Tomane comes in at inside centre this week with Robbie Henshaw making his first appearance of the season in blue outside him. Another plater to make his seasonal bow is Luke McGrath who features at half-back alongside Ross Byrne.
Up front, international props Cian Healy and Andrew Porter both come back into the side, with Ronan Kelleher again selected at hooker. Scott Fardy, this week’s captain, and Devin Toner complete the tight five.
Josh Murphy, Will Connors and Max Deegan, who switches from the blindside role, are the back row trio selected by Cullen to take on Connacht, who currently lie second in Conference B of the PRO14.
Looking forward to the Galway encounter, Deegan said: “We’re really trying to push the standards in training, push the boundary of how we’re training, the speed and hopefully that translates into the games we’re playing because it’s a fast game.
“You can see all the World Cup games were incredibly fast, so we’re pushing our standards to get up to those kind of levels. I think it was 2018 we went down there (to the Sportsground) and it (the 47-10 loss) was one of the tougher experiences I’ve had at an away pitch so we know exactly what we’re facing up against.
“We know that Connacht are going to be strong and athletic. Their last block of games went really well as well, so it’s going to be a great game. Everyone in the squad is looking forward to it.”
On the bench there is a welcome return from a neck injury for Ed Byrne who is involved for the first time this season in a competitive game, while Rhys Ruddock and Rob Kearney are the final two players involved with Ireland during the recent Rugby World Cup tournament to be included.
LEINSTER v Connacht): Hugo Keenan; Adam Byrne, Robbie Henshaw, Joe Tomane, James Lowe; Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath; Cian Healy, Ronan Kelleher, Andrew Porter, Devin Toner, Scott Fardy (capt), Josh Murphy, Will Connors, Max Deegan.
Replacements: James Tracy, Ed Byrne, Michael Bent, Ross Molony, Rhys Ruddock, Jamison Gibson-Park, Ciaran Frawley, Rob Kearney.