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Leinster Give First European Starts To Byrne And Baird

Leinster Give First European Starts To Byrne And Baird

Harry Byrne is pictured in action during the second half of Leinster's bonus point victory away to Montpellier ©INPHO/Dave Winter

Harry Byrne and Ryan Baird will make their first Heineken Champions Cup starts when Leinster host Northampton Saints at the RDS on Saturday (kick-off 1pm).

Ireland star Garry Ringrose also returns for his first game since suffering a jaw injury during the 50-17 Guinness Six Nations win at home to Italy in October.

Ringrose’s inclusion sees Robbie Henshaw shift to inside centre, with Hugo Keenan retained on the right wing and two of last week’s try scorers in Montpellier, Jimmy O’Brien and Dave Kearney, completing the back-three.

The 21-year-old Harry Byrne links up with Jamison Gibson-Park at half-back, and there are five further changes to the pack, including promising youngster Baird.

Cian Healy, Ronan Kelleher and Andrew Porter form an all-international front row, Baird partners James Ryan in the engine room, and captain Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris team up in an changed back row.

With Ross Molony and Josh Murphy involved in a European squad for the first time this season, head coach Leo Cullen said: “Last week’s selection, in particular, was tricky because you are trying to make assessments on a lot of international guys coming back.

“You’re watching the Scottish game and the other internationals as well, getting fed different bits of information and trying to make assessments when they all come back in on the Monday morning.

“So that in particular was quite a challenging selection. Over the course of the Christmas period certain guys will get managed and rested as well, because it’s been a pretty intense block of games for guys.

“There’s a few different injuries at the moment in a few different positions, but hopefully those guys will filter back over the course of the next three to six weeks.”

LEINSTER (v Northampton Saints): Jimmy O’Brien; Hugo Keenan, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Dave Kearney; Harry Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Cian Healy, Ronan Kelleher, Andrew Porter, Ryan Baird, James Ryan, Rhys Ruddock (capt), Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.

Replacements: James Tracy, Peter Dooley, Michael Bent, Ross Molony, Josh Murphy, Luke McGrath, Ross Byrne, Dan Leavy.