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Ruddock Leads Leinster For Aviva Return

Ruddock Leads Leinster For Aviva Return

Ireland international Rhys Ruddock has the captaincy reins for the start of Leinster's new European campaign ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Leinster return to the Aviva Stadium for the first time since September, hosting Bath in their opening game of this season’s Heineken Champions Cup (kick-off 3.15pm).

Tickets for Leinster v Bath are still available to purchase here. Supporters are also reminded that the wearing of masks is advised in the ground at all times.

A statement from Leinster Rugby, issued this morning, confirmed: “We are assisting three senior players who have tested positive for Covid-19. All three were tested outside the PCR testing window and are now self-isolating.

“Further PCR testing was carried out at Leinster Rugby yesterday morning on 94 players, coaches and staff and 93 tests returned negative results, with one further positive result for a member of staff.

“The HSE has been informed in accordance with public health guidelines.”

Meanwhile, Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has made seven changes to the team that overcame Connacht 47-19, including the return of scrum half Jamison Gibson-Park from a thigh injury.

He partners Ross Byrne at half-back, with Ciaran Frawley joining Garry Ringrose in the centre, and the same back-three of Hugo Keenan, Jordan Larmour and James Lowe selected.

With Jonathan Sexton sidelined with knee and ankle injuries, Rhys Ruddock will captain the province as they target their 10th win in 12 European meetings with Bath.

Ruddock, Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris feature in an unchanged back row, while Ross Molony, who also has experience of captaining the province, links up with Ryan Baird at lock.

Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher and Tadhg Furlong, Ireland’s starting front row from the Autumn Nations Series, resume together in Leinster blue.

On the bench, there are potential European debuts for Michael Ala’alatoa, Dan Sheehan, who ran in a superb solo try against Connacht, and Tommy O’Brien.


Cullen is also able to call upon Cian Healy, who is back to full fitness, the 270-times capped Devin Toner, Max Deegan, Luke McGrath and Jimmy O’Brien.

“I think people look at Bath and they’re bottom of the (Premiership) table, haven’t won a game this year. Yeah, they’re definitely a team are maybe low on confidence, it is fair to say, from watching them play,” admitted Cullen.

“I thought they really put it up to Exeter a couple of weeks ago and that’s the bit we need to make sure we’re prepared for.

“We can only focus so much on Bath, we’ve had an idea in terms of the personnel they have, some of the guys that are potentially missing which is probably still the case.

“So we’ve prepped well for some of the individual battles that we think will be there and you look at their team, there is still plenty of quality there, a lot of good young players that they’ve placed a lot of faith in this year.

“I’m sure they’ll come with a bit of a nothing to lose attitude, a fresh start in a new tournament, so for us we have to make sure we prepare as best as we can.”

LEINSTER (v Bath): Hugo Keenan; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Ciaran Frawley, James Lowe; Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher, Tadhg Furlong, Ross Molony, Ryan Baird, Rhys Ruddock (capt), Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.

Replacements: Dan Sheehan, Cian Healy, Michael Ala’alatoa, Devin Toner, Max Deegan, Luke McGrath, Jimmy O’Brien, Tommy O’Brien.