Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has included four uncapped players in his squad to play Zebre in the Guinness PRO14 at the RDS on Friday (kick-off 7.35pm).
With level 5 restrictions in place, tomorrow’s round 3 game will again be played behind closed doors at the Ballsbridge venue, and only a limited number of media will be in attendance.
As well as a welcome return from injury for a number of players, most notably Dan Leavy on the bench, two current members of the Academy – 21-year-old pair Liam Turner and David Hawkshaw – are set for their senior debuts.
Both Jimmy and Tommy O’Brien impressed as replacements last time out in Treviso. They are rewarded with their first starts of the campaign in the back-three alongside Dave Kearney, who wins his 150th Leinster cap.
The fit-again Ciaran Frawley is joined in the centre by former Blackrock College captain Turner, an Ireland Under-20 Grand Slam winner, while Harry Byrne and Luke McGrath link up together at half-back.
Up front, Peter Dooley makes his first appearance since February. In addition to Covid-19 disruptions, the Offaly-born prop had been sidelined with a shoulder injury.
Sheehan, who was promoted to a senior contract during the summer, is back to full fitness following a cheekbone injury. The Dublin University clubman is joined by Dooley and Michael Bent in the front row.
Ross Molony and Devin Toner have nearly 350 Leinster caps between them in the engine room, and a loose forwards trio of Josh Murphy, Scott Penny and captain Rhys Ruddock completes the starting line-up.
Former Sale Sharks and Munster prop Ciaran Parker, who is on loan from Jersey Reds, will be looking to make an impact off the bench, along with fellow debutant Hawkshaw, the captain of that 2019 Ireland U-20 Grand Slam-winning squad.
In addition, Ireland international Leavy is on the comeback trail. Donning the number 23 shirt tomorrow, he has been out of action since suffering a serious knee injury during the 2019 Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final against Ulster.
LEINSTER (v Zebre): Jimmy O’Brien; Tommy O’Brien, Liam Turner, Ciaran Frawley, Dave Kearney; Harry Byrne, Luke McGrath; Peter Dooley, Dan Sheehan, Michael Bent, Ross Molony, Devin Toner, Josh Murphy, Scott Penny, Rhys Ruddock (capt).
Replacements: James Tracy, Michael Milne, Ciaran Parker, Jack Dunne, Scott Fardy, Hugh O’Sullivan, David Hawkshaw, Dan Leavy.