Ross Byrne replaces knee injury victim Jonathan Sexton the Leinster starting XV for their Heineken Champions Cup round 4 date with Northampton Saints at the Aviva Stadium (kick-off 5.15pm). Tickets for Saturday’s game are available to buy online here.
Sexton was ruled out earlier in the week with the injured he sustained during last week’s 43-16 bonus point triumph at Franklin’s Gardens, so Byrne continues where he left off with a nine-point salvo, while lock Scott Fardy takes over the captaincy.
Head coach Leo Cullen has made five personnel changes, pairing up Byrne and Luke McGrath in an otherwise unchanged back-line. A hand injury has sidelined Ronan Kelleher who is replaced by James Tracy at hooker.
There is a second switch in the front row with Wexford man Tadhg Furlong featuring at tighthead this week, while Devin Toner, the 240-times capped Leinster stalwart, makes way for Fardy in the second row.
Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris are all retained in a back row which starred in Northampton, as Ruddock crossed for a try, van der Flier delivered a memorable man-of-the-match performance, and number 8 Doris also had a sizable impact on both sides of the ball.
Skerries native Ciaran Frawley is standing by to make his European debut off the bench. The traditional pre-Christmas outing at IRFU HQ will see Leinster gun for their 15th straight home win in the tournament – the last team to defeat them in such a fixture was Toulon in round 4 of the 2015/16 campaign.
Speaking about Byrne’s selection at number 10, Cullen said: “That’s the thing, the layers of experience that Ross has picked up over the last three or four years has been fantastic, and he’s waiting for these opportunities every time he gets them.
“I thought he led the team well when we were away in Glasgow a few weeks ago, in terms of his on-field leadership, and even when he steps into the team last weekend, whatever it is, 42 or 43 minutes, he’s a very commanding presence in the group.
“He has a very clean understanding, obviously missing out on World Cup selection with Ireland, he comes back to us a little bit earlier, so he’s been great for us so far this year.”
LEINSTER (v Northampton Saints): Jordan Larmour; Dave Kearney, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath; Cian Healy, James Tracy, Tadhg Furlong, Scott Fardy (capt), James Ryan, Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier, Calean Doris.
Replacements: Bryan Byrne, Ed Byrne, Andrew Porter, Devin Toner, Max Deegan, Jamison Gibson-Park, Ciaran Frawley, Rob Kearney.