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Conan Returns To Leinster Team, Sexton And Ryan On The Bench

Conan Returns To Leinster Team, Sexton And Ryan On The Bench

Number 8 Jack Conan is pictured training alongside James Ryan at Leinster's UCD base last week ©INPHO/Ben Brady

Ross Byrne and Jack Conan come in as two enforced changes to the Leinster team for Friday’s BKT United Rugby Championship showdown with Ulster at Kingspan Stadium (kick-off 7.35pm).

Ciaran Frawley was always going to miss this game due to the Emerging Ireland tour, but he was unable to travel to South Africa with the squad due to a shoulder injury picked up against Benetton Rugby.

Byrne, who impressed off the bench during last Friday’s game, slots in at out-half, with Conan returning at number 8, taking the place of Caelan Doris who is going through the graduated return-to-play protocols.

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A back-three of Jimmy O’Brien, Jordan Larmour and Dave Kearney is selected for the second round running, while Garry Ringrose, partnered by Robbie Henshaw in midfield, will captain the province for the trip to Belfast.

Luke McGrath, a try scorer during the closing stages against the Italians, completes the back-line, and unsurprisingly there is the same tight five backing up this week.

Ross Molony and South Africa powerhouse Jason Jenkins pack down behind Andrew Porter, prolific hooker Dan Sheehan and Michael Ala’alatoa.

Conan will make his seasonal debut in the back row alongside Ryan Baird and Josh van der Flier. James Ryan has overcome a minor hamstring injury to take his place on the bench.

Jonathan Sexton is also in line to make his first appearance of the new season. He has not played since Ireland’s historic series-clinching win over New Zealand in July.

Looking forward to playing against a number of familiar faces in the top of the table clash, centre Henshaw said: “It’s massive. It’s been a while since I’ve played up in Kingspan, it’s real exciting times for us.

“We know what Ulster are going to bring. Looking back to last year they beat us twice, in the RDS and up there. We’ll have a point to prove going up this weekend but we’re under no illusions. It’s going to be a very tough game.

“They’re playing great rugby at the moment (in this early part of the season). We’re really looking forward to the challenge but it’s going to be a tight one.”

He added: “Stu (McCloskey) has been brilliant for Ulster. He’s their go-to man at the moment and has been able to change a game. He is playing immense stuff so we will have to be ready for the physicality.

“And Luke Marshall as well, I have to give him a shout. It’s been great to see him back playing. He’s had a tough time the last few years and he is playing great stuff as well.”

LEINSTER (v Ulster): Jimmy O’Brien; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose (capt), Robbie Henshaw, Dave Kearney; Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath; Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, Michael Ala’alatoa, Ross Molony, Jason Jenkins, Ryan Baird, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.

Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Ed Byrne, Vakh Abdaladze, James Ryan, Will Connors, Nick McCarthy, Jonathan Sexton, Charlie Ngatai.