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Henshaw And Conan Return To Leinster Team

Henshaw And Conan Return To Leinster Team

Ireland internationals Jack Conan and Robbie Henshaw will make their seasonal debuts for Leinster against provincial rivals Munster ©INPHO/Bryan Keane

Robbie Henshaw and Jack Conan return as part of five changes to the Leinster team for Saturday’s BKT United Rugby Championship showdown with Munster at the Aviva Stadium (kick-off 6.30pm). Tickets are available to buy here.

The returning Ireland pair make their seasonal debuts, while Ross Byrne slots back in at out-half, and front rowers Dan Sheehan and Tadhg Furlong make their second and first starts of the campaign respectively.

Over 48,000 tickets have been sold so far for the interprovincial derby, before which retired Leinster and Ireland star Jonathan Sexton will be honoured at pitchside with a special presentation from the Official Leinster Supporters Club.

The home crowd will also get a chance to celebrate Leinster’s Vodafone Women’s Interprovincial Championship title-winning squad, who will be invited to parade the trophy around the pitch at half-time.

Following on from their first game as co-captains against the Scarlets last week, Garry Ringrose and James Ryan lead a strong Leinster side that includes 15 Ireland internationals.

Ringrose and Henshaw pair up in midfield for the first time in blue this season, while the back-three of Hugo Keenan, last Saturday’s BKT URC player-of-the-match, Jordan Larmour and Jimmy O’Brien is retained.

After becoming only the third player in the history of Leinster Rugby to reach 1000 points, Byrne replaces Sam Prendergast to partner Jamison Gibson-Park at half-back.

Andrew Porter, Sheehan and Furlong pack down together in the front row for the first time since Ireland’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final defeat to New Zealand last month.

Ryan and Joe McCarthy form the heart of the pack for the second week in a row, and Wicklow man Conan joins Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris in the loose forwards.

The current URC table toppers, who are on a five-match winning run, have included Academy players Jack Boyle, James Culhane and Ben Murphy as part of a six-two split on the replacements bench.

Speaking ahead of Leinster’s first encounter with Munster since last May’s 16-15 semi-final defeat, co-captain Ryan said: “It’s a bit strange. I’d be very close to a number of the Munster lads. When we put on an Irish jersey together, we have the time of our lives together.

“When they put on the Munster jersey, and we put on the Leinster jersey, all that stuff goes out the window once the game starts. That’s the way I see it, and that’s how they would see it too.

“There is so much history and colour in the interpro matches. They mean a bit more. You’re playing against your neighbours. They are guys who live down the road.

“These are fixtures that the supporters look forward to for a long time. They are pencilled in when the fixtures are released.

“There is an extra responsibility there to perform, and give our supporters something to cheer about. All of that brings an extra edge to the game. There is always that extra bite too.”

He added: “We were bitterly disappointed to lose that match (last May). Munster deserved the win. If you’re shy of motivation for a week like this, and shy of that bit of edge, you’re not in the right building.

“It doesn’t matter what year or season it is, it’s always one of those games you need to be ready for.”

LEINSTER (v Munster): Hugo Keenan; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose (co-capt), Robbie Henshaw, Jimmy O’Brien; Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, Tadhg Furlong, Joe McCarthy, James Ryan (co-capt), Jack Conan, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.

Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Jack Boyle, Michael Ala’alatoa, Ross Molony, James Culhane, Ben Murphy, Ciaran Frawley, Scott Penny.