Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has opted for an exciting blend of youth and experience for the visit of the Cheetahs to the RDS Arena on Saturday in the PRO14.
A number of players released from the Ireland camp for this weekend are chosen by Cullen in his starting XV, while four Academy players also make the match-day 23.
Rob Kearney starts at full-back with Fergus McFadden on the right-wing and Dave Kearney – one of those released by Ireland Head Coach Andy Farrell – on the left. In the centre, Joe Tomane wears the number 12 jersey with Jimmy O’Brien outside him while Luke McGrath is partnered by Ciarán Frawley in the half-backs.
In the front row, Offaly man Peter Dooley is joined by Rónan Kelleher, who was recently capped by Ireland for the first time against Scotland, while Michael Bent makes a welcome return from injury at tighthead prop. Ross Molony is joined by captain Scott Fardy in the second row.
Finally, in the back row, fresh from his Ireland debut last weekend, Max Deegan wears the number eight jersey with Rhys Ruddock at blindside and Will Connors selected at openside.
Kick-off on Saturday in the RDS Arena is 2.30pm.
Leinster: Rob Kearney, Fergus McFadden, Jimmy O’Brien, Joe Tomane, Dave Kearney, Ciarán Frawley, Luke McGrath; Peter Dooley, Rónan Kelleher, Michael Bent, Ross Molony, Scott Fardy, Rhys Ruddock, Will Connors, Max Deegan.
Replacements: Seán Cronin, Michael Milne, Roman Salanoa, Ryan Baird, Scott Penny, Jamison Gibson-Park, Harry Byrne, Cian Kelleher.
Ulster return to PRO14 action against Ospreys this weekend and there is a welcome return from injury for Louis Ludik for Saturday’s game.
Ludik will start on the left-wing and is joined in the back three by full-back Matt Faddes and Robert Baloucoune. Stuart McCloskey has been released from the Ireland squad and is paired with Luke Marshall in midfield. Billy Burns has also been released from international duties and will start at fly-half alongside David Shanahan who comes in to start at scrum-half.
In the front row, Eric O’Sullivan will start at loosehead prop, Adam McBurney is selected at hooker, and Marty Moore returns to the tighthead position. Alan O’Connor will lead the side from the second row and is partnered with Kieran Treadwell. Matthew Rea and Sean Reidy – who both recently signed two-year contract extensions with the province – start in the back row alongside number eight, Marcell Coetzee.
Jack McGrath and Tom O’Toole, who are also part of Ireland’s Six Nations squad, are named among the forward reinforcements with John Andrew, David O’Connor and Jordi Murphy. Providing backline cover are Jonny Stewart, Bill Johnston and Craig Gilroy.
Kick-off on Saturday in Liberty Stadium is 5.15pm.
Ulster: Matt Faddes, Robert Baloucoune, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Louis Ludik, Billy Burns, David Shanahan; Eric O’Sullivan, Adam McBurney, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor (Capt.), Kieran Treadwell, Matthew Rea, Sean Reidy, Marcell Coetzee.
— Ulster Rugby (@UlsterRugby) February 14, 2020
Replacements: John Andrew, Jack McGrath, Tom O’Toole, David O’Connor, Jordi Murphy, Jonny Stewart, Bill Johnston, Craig Gilroy.
Connacht have received a boost with the return of internationals Ultan Dillane and Dave Heffernan for their PRO14 clash against Cardiff Blues on Saturday.
Heffernan comes into a front row alongside props Paddy McAllister and Finlay Bealham. Dillane’s inclusion sees him line up alongside Gavin Thornbury in the second row with Quinn Roux still unavailable through injury.
In the back row, Captain Jarrad Butler starts at number 8 with Paul Boyle and Colby Fainga’a at blindside and openside respectively.
Kieran Marmion and Jack Carty continue as the half-back pairing with Caolin Blade and Conor Fitzgerald available off the bench. With Bundee Aki still unavailable due to international duty, Peter Robb and Kyle Godwin are selected as the midfield partnership. In the back three, Tiernan O’Halloran is selected at full-back with Matt Healy and John Porch on the wings.
Kick-off on Saturday in the Sportsgrounds is 7.35pm.
Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran, John Porch, Kyle Godwin, Peter Robb, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Paddy McAllister, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Gavin Thornbury, Paul Boyle, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler.
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Denis Buckley, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Joe Maksymiw, Eoin McKeon, Caolin Blade, Conor Fitzgerald, Tom Daly.
Meanwhile, Munster have also named their side for Friday evening’s PRO14 meeting with the Southern Kings in Irish Independent Park.
Head Coach Johann van Graan hands a first start to Academy man John Hodnett as the back-row forward makes his PRO14 debut.
Full-back Mike Haley, Calvin Nash and Shane Daly make up the back three while Dan Goggin and Chris Farrell are named as the centre partnership with Neil Cronin and JJ Hanrahan in the half-backs.
It’s an all-international front row with James Cronin, Niall Scannell and John Ryan named in the starting XV.