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Kelleher And Henshaw Return To Leinster Team

Kelleher And Henshaw Return To Leinster Team

Ireland internationals Ronan Kelleher and Robbie Henshaw will start for Leinster in their semi-final tussle with Munster at the Aviva Stadium ©INPHO/James Crombie

There are seven personnel changes to the Leinster team to play Munster in Saturday’s BKT United Rugby Championship semi-final encounter at the Aviva Stadium (kick-off 5.30pm). Tickets are still available here.

Ronan Kelleher (shoulder) and Robbie Henshaw (quad) both return to the starting XV, with the Ireland hooker set to feature for the province for the first time since January.

Harry Byrne and stand-in captain Luke McGrath lead a back-line which has New Zealander Charlie Ngatai completing the midfield duo, and Dave Kearney, who is leaving Leinster at the end of the season, forming the back-three with Jimmy and Tommy O’Brien.

Offaly native Michael Milne, who has scored six tries in his last five games, and Michael Ala’alatoa pack down either side of Kelleher. Ryan Baird and former Munster lock Jason Jenkins man the engine room.

Making his 98th appearance, Max Deegan fills the blindside flanker berth, Will Connors comes in at openside and Jack Conan, the scorer of two tries against Toulouse recently, features at the base of the scrum.

While proud of a record that has seen Leinster win their last eight Aviva Stadium clashes with Munster, head coach Leo Cullen said: “I am always a bit on edge for some of these games anyway. It’s a knock-out game and that’s the way you should feel, on edge.

“But then our guys have to have some confidence about some of the things they’ve achieved in recent times as a group. Theyve had to learn from a fair bit of disappointment from the tail-end of last season.

“We got to the same stage last season, a semi-final at home – well obviously we’re not at home here, we’re in the Aviva -but we lost at the semi-final stage of the URC last season and obviously we lost against La Rochelle last season in the final.

“So, we get an opportunity to hopefully rectify that next week, but that’s next week. We just have to deliver. It’s about delivering as best we can now, delivering close to our best game, because you never now what the opposition are going to bring, do you?

“So, you need to be able to deliver close to your best and that’s why we prepare the team, that’s why we try to keep things fresh with some of the selections as well.”

LEINSTER (v Munster): Jimmy O’Brien; Tommy O’Brien, Robbie Henshaw, Charlie Ngatai, Dave Kearney; Harry Byrne, Luke McGrath (capt); Michael Milne, Ronan Kelleher, Michael Ala’alatoa, Ryan Baird, Jason Jenkins, Max Deegan, Will Connors, Jack Conan.

Replacements: John McKee, Cian Healy, Thomas Clarkson, Joe McCarthy, Josh van der Flier, Nick McCarthy, Ciaran Frawley, Liam Turner.