Sexton returns to lead Leinster’s final charge

Leo Cullen vented his anger last week at what he perceived as suggestions in some media outlets that Jonathan Sexton had been ‘dropped’ for the semi-final win over Munster. He need not have bothered as Sexton’s selection for today’s decider was always going to refute such spin.

And so the Ireland and Lions 10 reclaims the out-half berth from Ross Byrne, whom he replaced just after the hour last time out, in one of three changes made to the side that overcame Munster.

Rob Kearney returns from a concussion to take the 15 jersey in a move which sees Jordan Larmour switch to the wing and Dave Kearney drop out of the squad due to Rory O’Loughlin’s versatility.

Scott Fardy is the other ‘promotion’. The Wallaby forward starts alongside James Ryan in the second-row due to the absence of Devin Toner, whom Fardy replaced last week when the Meathman suffered a knee injury.

Other notable tweaks have been made on the bench where Brian Byrne has been preferred as reserve hooker to James Tracy and his brother Ed Byrne gets the nod as loosehead replacement instead of Jack McGrath.

All of which means that McGrath, who joins Ulster this summer, has played his last game for his native province. So has Sean O’Brien who joins London Irish after the World Cup and who again fails to make the grade here due to another hip injury.

Not the ending either would have wanted.

Glasgow, unsurprisingly, are unchanged from the side that accounted for Ulster which means Stuart Hogg plays his last game for the club before leaving for Exeter Chiefs, as does prop Jamie Bhatti who is moving to Edinburgh.

“It might be a bit of rain tomorrow and a bit greasy on top,” said head coach Dave Rennie. “You might see a little bit more kicking. We are not going to change. I don’t think Leinster will change either. They are very good at hanging onto the ball and prepared to go an inch at a time.

“We have to hunt well. It is a helluva lot easier to defend three or four phases and try and steal one rather than defend for 30-odd. They have slick starter moves over the first two or three phases so we have done a fair bit of work round that. I’m sure they’ll have things up their sleeve.

“They are certainly prepared to play up our end of the field. It is the two best sides in the competition. Both sides won both sides of the draw so it is a fitting final between two positive sides. Should be a helluva of an occasion.”

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