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Ringrose Captains Leinster As Ryan Returns From Injury

Ringrose Captains Leinster As Ryan Returns From Injury

Ireland international Garry Ringrose is pictured on the attack during Leinster's Guinness PRO14 semi-final victory over Munster last Friday night ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has made four changes to the team that accounted for Munster at the semi-final stage, with Garry Ringrose captaining his province for the first time.

Fellow Ireland star James Ryan also makes a timely return from a shoulder injury as Leinster look to make history with a third Guinness PRO14 title in-a-row at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday (kick-off 7.35pm).

For their second showdown with Ulster in recent weeks, the defending champions’ back-three is unchanged. Full-back Jordan Larmour has come through the return-to-play protocols, with Hugo Keenan and James Lowe stationed out wide.

Ringrose, who wins his 75th Leinster cap, teams up again with Robbie Henshaw in midfield, while with Cullen mindful of next week’s Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final against Saracens, Ross Byrne and Jamison Gibson-Park replace Jonathan Sexton and Luke McGrath at half-back respectively.

Ryan partners Devin Toner in the engine room, packing down behind a front row of Cian Healy, Ronan Kelleher and Andrew Porter. It is Healy’s 219th Leinster appearance, making him their joint-fourth most-capped player alongside Cullen and Rob Kearney.

The in-form Caelan Doris, last week’s Guinness player-of-the-match, continues in the blindside flanker role, Josh van der Flier swaps in for Will Connors at openside, and Jack Conan completes the pack at number 8.

Speaking ahead of the game, Cullen said: “It’s about getting yourselves into a final and then performing on the day. We’ve tried to manage the group well to get to this point in very unusual circumstances. But it’s all about getting into a final and performing to get a win.

“The winners get the prize and the losers get nothing, really, so it’s important we understand that dynamic when it really comes down to it, what it will be like. Ulster really put it up to us that day (in the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final last year). We rode our luck at different stages.

“When you get to these knockout games you’re looking for a bit of freshness and a bit of continuity at the same time. That’s what we’ve gone for. A lot of really close calls. We think we’ve a strong 23 that will hopefully represent the 53 that managed to play through the course of the year.”

“Ulster, you’ve seen them against Edinburgh, we’re planning for a strong 80-minute game from them, so we need to make sure we have that bit of punch coming off the bench as well.”

Commenting on selecting Ringrose for the captaincy, he added: “I think it’s when you see people influencing the group really and Garry is such a key student of the game really. He’s always looking to improve himself, whether that’s his attacking skills, his defensive reading of the game, understanding the situations so then you bring him into our leadership group.

“We had a leadership group last year which since we’ve restarted that has changed slightly with some of the personnel in it and because Garry was away at the World Cup, he’s not around for pre-season but now because we’ve had this pre-season together he’s very much more involved in the running of the way we do things.

“You can see the players, how they view him as well. He’s such a key talker in the group as it is anyway. He’s very strong on both sides of the ball, attack and defence, his game understanding is good and I think he’ll hopefully do a good job for us.”

LEINSTER (v Ulster): Jordan Larmour; Hugo Keenan, Garry Ringrose (capt), Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Cian Healy, Ronan Kelleher, Andrew Porter, Devin Toner, James Ryan, Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.

Replacements: James Tracy, Ed Byrne, Michael Bent, Scott Fardy, Will Connors, Luke McGrath, Jonathan Sexton, Rory O’Loughlin.