Leinster will hope that a seasonal debut for Jonathan Sexton can inspire a more consistent 80-minute performance tonight as they welcome Guinness PRO12 table-toppers Ospreys to the RDS.
One of six changes to the side that secured a second win in three outings when seeing off Edinburgh last weekend, Sexton takes over from the impressive but inexperienced Joey Carbery at out-half, having recovered from shoulder surgery.
The province has blown hot and cold. A failure to claim a bonus point on opening day against Benetton Treviso was compounded a week later when they left Glasgow with nothing to show for efforts that included three first-half tries. Even last week’s 33-20 win in Edinburgh was lopsided, with a quartet of first-half tries followed by a prolonged defensive stint before the victory was secured with another, late, five-pointer.
“You’ve got to give a bit of credit to the opposition that we’ve played as well,” countered head coach Leo Cullen. “They came back strongly in those games, but it’s something that we’ve got to be conscious of. We certainly need to be better, yes.”
Sexton is partnered by scrum-half Luke McGrath, while Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong are drafted in on either side of the front row. Mick Kearney replaces Mike McCarthy at lock. The other change sees Josh van der Flier relieve Dan Leavy in the back row.
The Ospreys have claimed maximum points from three games, though the impressive defeat of Connacht in Galway has been book-ended by more mundane assignments against Italian opposition.
“They’re very physical,” said Cullen. They’re a team that we have a lot of respect for because we’ve had some good tussles with them.”
: Z Kirchner; I Nacewa, G Ringrose, N Reid, D Kearney; J Sexton, L McGrath; C Healy, S Cronin, T Furlong; D Toner, M Kearney; J Murphy, J van der Flier, J Heaslip.
S Davies; J Hassler, A Beck, J Matavesi, B John; D Biggar, R Webb; P James, S Baldwin, D Arhip; L Ashley, AW Jones; J King, J Tipuric, T Ardron.
M Mitrea (FIR).
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