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Sexton & Henderson Return To Captain Provinces In Champions Cup

Johnny Sexton will make his first Leinster appearance of the season when he captains the side in their Champions Cup opener against Benetton in the RDS.

At full-back Jordan Larmour is in for his first game in blue of the season, with Dave Kearney on the right-wing and James Lowe on the left.

Joe Tomane is selected in the 12 jersey, with Garry Ringrose another involved for the first time this season outside him.

Luke McGrath starts for the second week in a row with club captain Johnny Sexton making his seasonal bow at 10.

In the pack, Cian Healy starts again this week with Andrew Porter also selected to start from tighthead. Rónan Kelleher has been rewarded for an excellent start to the season with a European debut at hooker.

Devin Toner is joined in the second row by another one of the returning Irish contingent, James Ryan.

In the back row, Rhys Ruddock starts this week having been amongst the replacements last weekend, with Josh van der Flier on the openside for his first involvement of the season and finally, former Ireland Under 20s captain Caelan Doris makes his first start in Europe from number eight.

Kick-off in the RDS Arena is 3.15pm.

Leinster: Jordan Larmour, Dave Kearney, Garry Ringrose, Joe Tomane, James Lowe, Johhny Sexton, Luke McGrath; Cian Healy, Rónan Kelleher, Andrew Porter, Devin Toner, James Ryan, Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.

Replacements: James Tracy, Peter Dooley, Michael Bent, Scott Fardy, Max Deegan, Jamison Gibson-Park, Ross Byrne, Rory O’Loughlin.

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Munster have made five changes to the side that defeated Ulster in the Guinness PRO14 last week for their Champions Cup with Ospreys in Wales on Saturday.

Keith Earls starts on his first Munster appearance of the campaign with Tyler Bleyendaal, Conor Murray, Jeremy Loughman and Tommy O’Donnell also coming into the starting XV.

Mike Haley starts at full-back with last week’s match-winner Andrew Conway and Earls on either flank. Rory Scannell and Chris Farrell continue their centre partnership with Murray and Bleyendaal in the half-backs.

Conor Murray Tyler Bleyendaal

Loughman, Niall Scannell and John Ryan pack down in the front row with Loughman making his first Champions Cup start. Jean Kleyn and Billy Holland start in the engine room with captain Peter O’Mahony, O’Donnell and CJ Stander completing the side.

Tadhg Beirne is named among the replacements and is in line to make his first Munster appearance of the season.

Kick-off at the Liberty Stadium is 5.30pm.

Munster: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Tyler Bleyendaal, Conor Murray; Jeremy Loughman, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony (C), Tommy O’Donnell, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, James Cronin, Stephen Archer, Tadhg Beirne, Arno Botha, Alby Mathewson, Sammy Arnold, Dan Goggin.

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Ultan Dillane has returned to the Connacht starting team to face Montpellier in the opening round of the Heineken Champions Cup in the Sportsground on Sunday.

Irish international Bundee Aki is also set for his first start since the World Cup, following his appearance off the bench against Leinster last weekend.

The return of Aki and Dillane comes as a boost to Andy Friend and his coaching team as Connacht return to Champions Cup action after a two year absence. Dillane comes into the second row alongside Sligo man and former Ireland Under 20 international Cillian Gallagher.

Connacht

In the front row, the inclusion of Dominic Robertson-McCoy is the only change from last weekend. The tighthead prop lines up alongside experienced hooker Tom McCartney and Denis Buckley at loosehead.

In the backrow, Colby Fainga’a comes in at blindside with Jarrad Butler at openside and Paul Boyle in his now familiar number 8 jersey.

Jack Carty and Caolin Blade continue their half-back partnership and with Irish international Kieran Marmion on the injured list, Stephen Kerins is named as the replacement scrum-half for the second game in a row.

Bundee Aki will partner Kyle Godwin in midfield while the back three is made up of Darragh Leader at full back with Niyi Adeolokun and Matt Healy on the wings.

Kick-off in the Sportsground is 1pm.

Connacht: Darragh Leader, Niyi Adeolokun, Kyle Godwin, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Cillian Gallagher, Ultan Dillane, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (C), Paul Boyle.

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Matthew Burke, Conor Kenny, Eoghan Masterson, Robin Copeland, Stephen Kerins, Tom Daly, John Porch.

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Meanwhile, Iain Henderson returns to lead out Ulster for the first time since being named club captain. He is one of four changes to the team that lost to Munster at Thomond Park last week.

Will Addison comes back into the full-back position joining Jacob Stockdale and Rob Lyttle in the back three. Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall will retain their midfield partnership.

In the half-backs, Billy Burns returns to take the fly-half position and will play against his brother, Freddie, who is named at full-back for Bath. Burns will once again pair up with John Cooney at scrum-half.

Jack McGrath will pack down at loosehead, Rob Herring at hooker, and Marty Moore at tighthead. Henderson is partnered in the engine room with Sam Carter. Matthew Rea returns to blindside flanker, while Jordi Murphy retains the openside position, and Marcell Coetzee comes back to the base of the pack at number eight.

Kick-off in the Rec is 1pm.

Ulster: Will Addison, Rob Lyttle, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Billy Burns, John Cooney; Jack McGrath, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Iain Henderson (Capt.), Sam Carter, Matthew Rea, Jordi Murphy, Marcell Coetzee.

Replacements: Adam McBurney, Eric O’Sullivan, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Sean Reidy, David Shanahan, Angus Curtis, Louis Ludik.

About Marisa Kennedy

Marisa is a Digital Journalist with Pundit Arena. You can contact her at marisa@punditarena.com or on Twitter