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Leinster Make Eight Changes For Zebre Encounter

Leinster Make Eight Changes For Zebre Encounter

Promising young hooker Dan Sheehan will make his second senior start for Leinster in Parma ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson

With qualification for the Guinness PRO14 final secured last week, Leinster will field a youthful team when they line out against Zebre in Parma on Friday (kick-off 6.45pm local time/5.45pm Irish time).

Recent debutant Alex Soroka makes his first start at number 8 in a side captained again by Luke McGrath. Sean O’Brien and Tim Corkery are in line for their debuts off the bench.

For the clash at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, out-half Harry Byrne is the only change in the backs. Academy youngster Max O’Reilly continues at full-back, with Jimmy O’Brien and Rory O’Loughlin pairing up in midfield once more.

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Jack Dunne’s first start of the season comes in an all-changed tight five. Dan Sheehan, the scorer of Leinster’s final try away to Ulster, is joined by Peter Dooley and Academy prop Thomas Clarkson in the front row.

Scott Penny, the Guinness player-of-the-match in Belfast, switches to openside flanker this week, while Josh Murphy and the 20-year-old Soroka complete the starting line-up.

UCD pair O’Brien and Corkery, who both have three Ireland Under-20 caps, feature on the bench, along with Devin Toner who could move one game shy of Gordon D’Arcy record Leinster caps haul of 261.

Speaking about the selection policy as Leinster face into a testing period of PRO14 and European rugby, senior coach Stuart Lancaster said: “We actually see it as a positive that we can give people opportunities and obviously go out and win the final (last year), which is what everyone has done the hard work for.

“Some of the lads that have played in this block now deserve an opportunity to play. But also you have that game the next week which is a big game and then hopefully the week after that is as big as well, a (Champions Cup) quarter-final.

“Then we have this extended period of April, May and into June which is longer than we normally have at Leinster. Normally there is a (summer) tour and it finishes earlier.

“So, we’ve got a really good opportunity to push on through the Rainbow Cup and finish with Champions Cup to aim for and also whatever form the Rainbow Cup takes.”

LEINSTER (v Zebre): Max O’Reilly; Cian Kelleher, Jimmy O’Brien, Rory O’Loughlin, Dave Kearney; Harry Byrne, Luke McGrath (capt); Peter Dooley, Dan Sheehan, Thomas Clarkson, Ross Molony, Jack Dunne, Josh Murphy, Scott Penny, Alex Soroka.

Replacements: James Tracy, Marcus Hanan, Michael Bent, Devin Toner, Sean O’Brien, Hugh O’Sullivan, Tim Corkery, Jamie Osborne.