Number 8 Jack Conan will make his 100th appearance for Leinster in Friday’s Guinness PRO14 match against the Dragons at Rodney Parade (kick-off 7.35pm).
There are four changes to the team that won 52-25 at the Scarlets last time out, with Ireland scrum half Luke McGrath captaining the Conference A leaders once again.
Academy full-back Max O’Reilly wins his third cap in the back-three alongside Cian Kelleher and Dave Kearney, while returning international Ross Byrne is joined in midfield by the fit-again Rory O’Loughlin who is back from a shoulder injury.
Notably, this will be the first time that the Byrne brothers have started a game together in Leinster colours. Ross’ younger sibling, Harry, holds the reins at half-back alongside skipper McGrath.
Michael Bent has recovered from a neck injury to pack down with Peter Dooley and James Tracy in the front row. Ross Molony and Ryan Baird continue together in the engine room.
It is almost seven years to the day since Wicklow native Conan’s try-scoring debut for Leinster away to the Cardiff Blues. He anchors the back row tomorrow, linking up with Josh Murphy and the fit-again Scott Penny.
Friday night could be a memorable one for young prop Marcus Hanan who is poised to make his Leinster debut off the bench. The Clane RFC product played for the Ireland Under-20s in 2020.
Looking forward to seeing what the Byrne brothers can do together in Newport, head coach Leo Cullen said: “Obviously the two of them know each other very, very well, having kicked ball around the back garden for many, many years together!
“It’s something that we’ve wanted to see for a while, so it gives us a chance it see what it looks like. Both very competitive in their own way.
“Ross has played a lot of games for us over the last number of years, Harry’s played a lot of games for us this year.
“I think he’s probably had the most starts of our tens this season, certainly in the Guinness PRO14. It’s a good opportunity for us to see the two of them together.”
LEINSTER (v Dragons): Max O’Reilly; Cian Kelleher, Rory O’Loughlin, Ross Byrne, Dave Kearney; Harry Byrne, Luke McGrath (capt); Peter Dooley, James Tracy, Michael Bent, Ross Molony, Ryan Baird, Josh Murphy, Scott Penny, Jack Conan.
Replacements: Dan Sheehan, Marcus Hanan, Tom Clarkson, Devin Toner, Scott Fardy, Rowan Osborne, David Hawkshaw, Jamie Osborne.