Australian international Scott Fardy will captain Leinster from the second row when they host the Toyota Cheetahs in the GUINNESS PRO14 at the RDS on Saturday (kick-off 2.30pm). Tickets are available to buy online here.
After a mini-break, the defending champions return to action for the first time in four weeks. Head coach Leo Cullen has called on a mix of youth and experience as the province welcome their Conference A rivals to the Ballsbridge venue.
A number of players released from Ireland’s Six Nations camp are selected by Cullen in his starting XV, while four Academy players also make the matchday 23.
Making his third start of the season, Rob Kearney lines out at full-back with Fergus McFadden on the right wing and Dave Kearney, one of the players released by Ireland head coach Andy Farrell, on the left side.
Naas man Jimmy O’Brien wins his 15th cap in midfield alongside Joe Tomane, while Skerries native Ciaran Frawley, who scored 17 points in Leinster’s last PRO14 win over Connacht, partners Luke McGrath at half-back.
Recent Ireland debutant Ronan Kelleher and Peter Dooley are joined in the front row by fit-again tighthead Michael Bent, and stand-in skipper Fardy links up with Ross Molony in the engine room.
Fresh from his own Ireland debut against Wales last Saturday, Max Deegan dons the number 8 jersey with Rhys Ruddock on the blindside flank and Will Connors selected at openside for his 14th provincial appearance.
Looking forward to resuming Leinster’s PRO14 campaign, winger McFadden said: “I wasn’t picked for the European matches (against Lyon and Benetton). The strength in depth in every position, and particularly the back-three, is very deep. I’m just hoping to get an opportunity now this week and during this window to try and put my hand up.
“The Cheetahs are very, very dangerous off any broken field turnovers or loose kicks. We’re very aware of that. At the end of the day, they don’t lose players like we lose players during this period. They’ll be very strong coming over here and be looking to get a result.
“In saying that, the group that is here is excited about the challenge. We haven’t played in a few weeks now, but we had a good rugby week under our belts last week and the guys that are picked will be looking to keep the winning run we’re on going.”
LEINSTER (v Toyota Cheetahs): Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Jimmy O’Brien, Joe Tomane, Dave Kearney; Ciaran Frawley, Luke McGrath; Peter Dooley, Ronan Kelleher, Michael Bent, Ross Molony, Scott Fardy (capt), Rhys Ruddock, Will Connors, Max Deegan.
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Michael Milne, Roman Salanoa, Ryan Baird, Scott Penny, Jamison Gibson-Park, Harry Byrne, Cian Kelleher.