Leinster will be captained by James Ryan for Sunday’s Heineken Champions Cup tussle with Montpellier at the RDS (kick-off 1pm).
The Ireland lock will lead the province in their first game since their December 11 victory over Bath, with Covid-19 issues causing a cancelled European fixture and the postponement of three United Rugby Championship matches.
Hugo Keenan will wear the number 15 jersey, with Jordan Larmour and Jimmy O’Brien on the wings. O’Brien made his European debut against Montpellier last season.
Garry Ringrose and Ciaran Frawley combine in the centre again, as do Ross Byrne and Jamison Gibson-Park at half-back. Regular skipper Jonathan Sexton is fit to return for bench duty.
Ryan and Ross Molony feature in an all-St. Michael’s College second row, backing up a power-packed front row of Andrew Porter, who recently signed a new IRFU contract, Ronan Kelleher and Tadhg Furlong.
Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan complete Leo Cullen’s starting XV, with the province’s back row ranks now unfortunately missing Dan Leavy who underwent a procedure to stabilise a fracture in his wrist last week and will be out for at least two months.
On the bench, Rhys Ruddock is in line to win his 50th Champions Cup cap should he be introduced during the third round tie.
With Leinster now having ground to make up on their pool rivals, prop Porter said: “Our best performances is all that will do for the rest of the competition because the amount of competition in the Champions Cup is huge and we know what all the teams will bring.
“It’s almost knockout rugby straightaway now, so, it’s a huge challenge that we’re all relishing and we’re all really looking forward to it. You definitely use it as motivation.
“Everyone has been saying training has been tougher. There were no games on the weekend, so we’ve had the legs kind of run off us a bit during the last few weeks.
“But, if anything, it’s just prepared us even better, the way the coaches have been training us and the way everyone has bought into the teamwork ethic, more than anything.
“We’ve been working harder than we have been previously in the season when we had games.
“So, fitness-wise, we won’t have to worry about it too much because of the great staff we have and the set-up we have at Leinster. I think we’ll be in a really good place in that sense.”
LEINSTER (v Montpellier): Hugo Keenan; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Ciaran Frawley, Jimmy O’Brien; Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher, Tadhg Furlong, Ross Molony, James Ryan (capt), Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.
Replacements: Dan Sheehan, Cian Healy, Michael Ala’alatoa, Rhys Ruddock, Max Deegan, Luke McGrath, Jonathan Sexton, James Lowe.