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Retiring Ruddock Set For RDS Farewell

Retiring Ruddock Set For RDS Farewell

Rhys Ruddock will pack down at blindside flanker for Leinster's final round clash with Connacht ©INPHO/Ben Brady

Just a few days on from announcing his retirement, Rhys Ruddock will run out for the final time at the RDS when Leinster host Connacht in the BKT United Rugby Championship on Friday (kick-off 7.35pm). A limited number of tickets are available to buy here.

Head coach Leo Cullen’s selected team shows 14 personnel changes, with young centre Jamie Osborne the only starting player retained from last Saturday’s Investec Champions Cup final defeat to Toulouse.

It is the final game at the RDS before its redevelopment starts, and Ruddock fittingly will make his 229th appearance for the province, while Ed Byrne and Ross Molony will both start ahead of their summer moves to Cardiff and Bath respectively.

There are also starting places for Ciarán Frawley, Rónan Kelleher, and Jack Conan, who were all involved as replacements in London last week, as Leinster look to take some winning momentum into the URC play-offs.

Cullen’s side, who head into round 18 in third place, could still top the table with a favourable set of results this weekend, or finish in fourth if they fail to get the better of the westerners.

Tommy O’Brien has recovered from a hamstring injury to join Jimmy O’Brien and Rob Russell in the back-three, Osborne and Frawley pair up in midfield, and half-backs Sam Prendergast and Cormac Foley partner each other for the first time at home this season.

Centurion Byrne, Kelleher, and Thomas Clarkson will form the front row, which is backed up by lock duo Molony and Brian Deeny. Scott Penny captains the team from openside flanker, with Ruddock and Conan providing 374 caps’ worth of experience to the back row.

Charlie Ngatai returns from a shoulder injury to feature on the replacements bench, alongside Dan Sheehan, Michael Ala’alatoa, and Ryan Baird who all played in the extra-time loss to Toulouse.

Understandably keen for a quick return to winning ways ahead of the play-offs, senior coach Jacques Nienaber said: “For us I think the big thing this week is literally focusing on us, and I say that with all the respect to Connacht and our opposition.

“Obviously you have to have a good understanding of how they operate and how they work, but I think the main thing for us is just to make sure we do as much as we can, and then we literally have to sit back and see how it (the top four) plays out.

“We definitely will have a home quarter-final, it’s just then do we have a home semi, but that will depend on other results.

“We are fortunate that we still have another competition and a trophy to go for. If you go into knockout rugby, you always want to go in preferably with momentum, and that’s why it would be awesome for us if we could build momentum going into those knockouts.”

LEINSTER (v Connacht): Jimmy O’Brien; Tommy O’Brien, Jamie Osborne, Ciarán Frawley, Rob Russell; Sam Prendergast, Cormac Foley; Ed Byrne, Rónan Kelleher, Thomas Clarkson, Ross Molony, Brian Deeny, Rhys Ruddock, Scott Penny (capt), Jack Conan.

Replacements: Dan Sheehan, Michael Milne, Michael Ala’alatoa, Ryan Baird, Max Deegan, Luke McGrath, Harry Byrne, Charlie Ngatai.