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Sexton Set For First Leinster Start Since October

Sexton Set For First Leinster Start Since October

Ireland captain Jonathan Sexton was back in action for Leinster last week, appearing off the bench against Montpellier ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has made four changes to the team for Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup encounter with Bath at the Recreation Ground (kick-off 1pm).

Captain Jonathan Sexton returns to lead the side, making his first start for the province since the win over the Scarlets in mid-October.

Cullen has chosen the same back-three from last week’s record-breaking 89-7 victory over Montpellier. Hugo Keenan continues in the number 15 jersey, flanked by Jordan Larmour and Jimmy O’Brien.

Garry Ringrose is joined in midfield by Robbie Henshaw, who last played against Connacht in early December, and Luke McGrath will partner Sexton at half-back.

There is just one change to the pack from round three, Michael Ala’alatoa, a try scorer from the bench against Montpellier, comes in for Tadhg Furlong, who has been nursing a calf injury.

Andrew Porter and hooker Ronan Kelleher complete the front row, while Ross Molony and the versatile Josh Murphy get a second outing together in the engine room.

Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, who was a try-scoring Heineken star-of-the-match last Saturday, and Jack Conan, who bagged a brace of tries, feature again in an unchanged back row.

As Leinster look for a strong finish to improve their seeding for the knockout stages, number 8 Conan said: “We have been over there (at Bath) once in recent years and we struggled. It was a bad day.

“If it wasn’t for Jordan (Larmour) getting that intercept, we wouldn’t have come out on the right side of it. So, we are under no illusions how tough it is going to be when we go over there.

“Obviously they broke their bit of a duck there a few weeks ago against Worcester with a new defence coach.

“I am sure they have a lot of energy and are really excited to get back to the Rec and put on a performance for their fans. There are no easy games away from home, so we are treating this as a knockout rugby match for ourselves.”

On the bench, there is a potential European debut for 25-year-old prop Vakh Abdaladze, who lined out for Clontarf in the Energia All-Ireland League last week.

He is joined in the replacements by Dan Sheehan, Cian Healy, Ryan Baird, Max Deegan, Jamison Gibson-Park, Ross Byrne and Ciaran Frawley.

LEINSTER (v Bath): Hugo Keenan; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Jimmy O’Brien, Jonathan Sexton (capt), Luke McGrath; Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher, Michael Ala’alatoa, Ross Molony, Josh Murphy, Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.

Replacements: Dan Sheehan, Cian Healy, Vakh Abdaladze, Ryan Baird, Max Deegan, Jamison Gibson-Park, Ross Byrne, Ciaran Frawley.