Leinster travel to third-placed Ospreys, keen to keep their hold on a Guinness PRO12 playoffs home semi-final, and Carbery is just one of a host of positional and personnel changes made by Leo Cullen from the side which defeated Wasps in the Champions Cup quarter-final.
Fergus McFadden makes his fifth start of the season, after his try-scoring impact against Wasps off the bench, while hooker Seán Cronin makes his first senior start since January, when a hamstring injury in the routine win over Zebre brought a premature end to his Six Nations hopes. Josh van der Flier comes into the starting lineup, having missed out against Wasps, while Rory O’Loughlin starts on the wing, with Adam Byrne out with the hamstring injury that cut short his involvement in the Aviva Stadium clash. Dave Kearney takes the No23 shirt, hopeful of making just his third appearance since October, due to injury, just in time to push for inclusion at the business end of the season.
“I’ve had a couple of road bumps along the way in my season too so you go from being ready to go, to back to square one again and that is arguably the toughest element of that cycle that you fall into. It can be very difficult to get out of,” he said.
But with Leinster top of the PRO12 and a Champions Cup semi-final against Clermont on the horizon, Kearney is hoping to force his way into contention for a potentially huge run of games.
“We all want eight games in eight weeks and it is as tough a task as you could ask for,” he said. “First away to Ospreys, to Connacht, to Clermont, to Ulster and of course we have one home game against Glasgow still to come in the middle of all that. That is an awful lot of fixtures against teams that are scrapping for something but I also think that those fixtures will bring the best out of us, starting this weekend at the Liberty Stadium. Similar to us and the RDS, they also have a very proud record losing only once at home this season in the PRO12.”
Leinster’s win over Wasps won’t be much use to Ospreys today, with Isa Nacewa moving to full back, and Garry Ringrose given the weekend off as Robbie Henshaw is paired with Zane Kirchner in midfield.
Jamison Gibson-Park starts at scrum-half, in front of Carbery, with Jack McGrath and Tadhg Furlong starting in the front row, with Cronin back in action having come through a Leinster ‘A’ clash with Ulster Ravens last weekend.
Dan Biggar, the Wales international out-half, will make his 200th appearance for Ospreys today, with Steve Tandy, the Ospreys head coach, paying tribute to the 27-year-old.
“He is the ultimate competitor and it’s an amazing achievement for Dan, particularly when you look how young he still is,” said Tandy.
“You look at his level of consistency, the number of games he has played and his incredible points scoring record, and it tells you all you need to know about his appetite for work. Nobody plays as many games, for the Ospreys and Wales, as he has by the age of 27, or scores the points they have, by chance. His character probably makes him easy to knock from the outside but he just shrugs criticism off, he is someone who thrives on adversity with his will to win.”
S Davies; K Giles, K Fonotia, J Matavesi, D Evans; D Biggar, R Webb (capt); N Smith, S Baldwin, B Mujati, L Ashley, R Thornton, O Cracknell, J Tipuric, D Baker.
S Otten, P James, Ma’afu Fia, B Davies, T Ardron, S Underhill, T Habberfield, J Spratt.
I Nacewa (capt); R O’Loughlin, Z Kirchner, R Henshaw, F McFadden; J Carbery, J Gibson-Park; J McGrath, S Cronin, T Furlong, D Toner, M Kearney, R Ruddock, J van der Flier, J Conan.
J Tracy, P Dooley, M Ross, I Nagle, D Leavy, N McCarthy, R Byrne, D Kearney.
John Lacey (IRFU)