Sean McMahon reporting from St James Park, Newcastle.
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has named the same starting XV from their win over Toulouse for tomorrow’s Heineken Champions Cup final with Saracens.
The level of consistency in selection is a bonus for Leinster but Cullen has made changes to his replacements as Jack McGrath and Rhys Ruddock are in reserve at the expense of Ed Byrne and Caelan Doris.
Seán Cronin has been included to start and many were expecting the hooker to be a major doubt for the final when he picked up a calf injury in the win over Toulouse at the Aviva three weeks ago.
However, the 33-year-old has come through training over the past week and Cullen, speaking to media after the captain’s run at St James Park, hopes the Limerick man is able to get through the match tomorrow.
“We’ll soon find out, yeah,” Cullen replied to a question whether Cronin is fully fit.
“When a guy picks up an injury in the semi-final, his calf, we knew it was going to be a little bit tight with Seán but he’s trained ok this week and hopefully, he’s good to go. You never have 100% certainty but for a final, you take a little bit of a chance. But he’s trained this week so hopefully, he comes through ok.”
Another big selection call was choosing Michael Bent among the replacements ahead of Andrew Porter and Jack McGrath ahead of Ed Byrne. Cullen was quizzed on this decision and he said McGrath’s experience played a factor while Porter’s previous injury was taken into account.
“I think sometimes, with a team like Saracens, with a very strong set-piece, Jack [McGrath] has a lot of experience playing at the highest level and in terms of the way we think the game will unfold, his strengths suit this challenge.
“Andrew Porter’s a little bit unlucky, he picked up the injury and hasn’t really featured the last few weeks. He has trained fully this week and was available but it was just a little bit too tight with him.
“Michael Bent, he’s been so important to us over the course of the season, you think back to some of the games when we’re down 15, 20 players and he’s come up with five scrum penalties on his own, so he’s been hugely important to the success of the group over the course of the season. Even coming off the bench against Toulouse, I thought he had a really good impact as well.”