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Leinster Make Nine Changes For Munster Showdown

Leinster Make Nine Changes For Munster Showdown

Will Connors, who was part of the mid-season Ireland squad, secures possession for Leinster against Ulster at the RDS last week ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

As the respective Conference leaders prepare to face off, Leinster have made nine personnel changes and two positional switches to the team to play Munster at the Thomond Park on Saturday (kick-off 6pm).

Ross Byrne, who has recovered from a dead leg, and Jamison Gibson-Park are the only players retained from the back-line which started last week’s 54-42 bonus point victory at home to Ulster.

Hugo Keenan, Adam Byrne and James Lowe form the back-three for the sold-out clash in Limerick, while Mullingar man Conor O’Brien steps up from the bench to feature in the centre alongside Jimmy O’Brien.

Andrew Porter, stand-in captain Scott Fardy, Josh Murphy and Will Connors are the survivors up front, with Murphy reverting to the blindside flanker role and Connors shifting to the openside spot.

Ed Byrne and James Tracy join Porter in the front row, while Devin Toner makes his 242nd provincial appearance in the second row. The 21-year-old Caelan Doris completes the starting XV.

Leinster backs coach Felipe Contepomi commented: “Leinster-Munster is one of the biggest derbies in world rugby. For me it is one of the biggest dates and one of the best games to be involved in.

“I personally don”t like talking about first or second tiers (in terms of team selection). It is Munster-Leinster. As a rugby player it is one of those atmospheres that’s great to play in. I have been in some other big derbies, like Stade-Racing, and I don’t know if they are the same.

“We always scout the opposition but, to start with, we try to get better with what we want to do and we have some things to improve on, especially from last weekend. We focus first on us and then you see, yeah, Munster have new coaches in Stephen (Larkham) and (Graham) Rowntree.

“He (Larkham) has added a few things but Munster, by themselves, have traditionally been very strong anyway so it is not like this is someone who came and suddenly they have a new team. We know historically how they play and what it takes to go there and get a result.

“We have the experience of last year in Thomond so we are expecting a very big challenge. There are a few traits that Munster do and they have been adding others this year. It is good to see them playing really good rugby.”

LEINSTER (v Munster): Hugo Keenan; Adam Byrne, Jimmy O’Brien, Conor O’Brien, James Lowe; Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Ed Byrne, James Tracy, Andrew Porter, Devin Toner, Scott Fardy (capt), Josh Murphy, Will Connors, Caelan Doris.

Replacements: Sean Cronin, Peter Dooley, Jack Aungier, Ross Molony, Scott Penny, Rowan Osborne, Ciaran Frawley, Tommy O’Brien.