Leinster’s understudies aim to grab chance to impress

Some of their frontline players may have their feet up this weekend, but for those Leinster players in the RDS tonight, there’s a priceless opportunity to top up their credit with coach Leo Cullen.

Leinster’s understudies aim to grab chance to impress

Some of their frontline players may have their feet up this weekend, but for those Leinster players in the RDS tonight, there’s a priceless opportunity to top up their credit with coach Leo Cullen.

There are just two PRO14 games to play before the Heineken Champions Cup semi-final against Toulouse later this month, two games in which to capture the attention of the head coach.

Leinster were not firing on all cylinders against a fired up Ulster last weekend, and in truth they have not reached the same heights as last season — despite comfortably leading their conference, and being in Europe’s final four.

Some of those on show tonight might fancy their chances of adding something to the mix when Toulouse visit the RDS, and Cullen has scattered new faces all across the team.

The backrow, as usual, is where much of the focus will be — given injuries to Dan Leavy and Josh van der Flier, while Seán O’Brien has not reached his usual standards this season. Josh Murphy, Max Deegan and Caelan Doris start, and Deegan’s No7 shirt is likely to have plenty of eyes following his every move.

“We’ve used this selection over the course of the season,” explained Cullen.

“Josh at No 6 gives us a good physical edge, gets through a lot of work. Between Max and Caelan, they’ve been playing this No 7/8 role. Even though Max will be doing some of the work of the No 8, he’ll wear 7. Max and Caelan have both been excellent. Those guys are young, they are pushing on through and getting better week-on-week.

“It has been a good season for the two of them, they’ve got lots of minutes and are learning all the time. The back-row that started last weekend have been managed for various reasons and some will come back into the mix next week depending on what we go with for the Glasgow game.

“It’s a great chance for guys to lay down a marker and put their hands up and say ‘pick me, pick me’ for the big games. That semi-final in a couple of weeks that everyone wants to play in.”

Just days after his move to Ulster was confirmed, Jack McGrath starts at loosehead, with Ed Byrne out of the matchday 23 entirely. Quite the role reversal. Andrew Porter and James Tracy complete the front row, while Mick Kearney joins Scott Fardy in the second row.

Noel Reid makes a rare start at No 10, besides captain for the night Luke McGrath, and there’s a whole new-look backline behind them.

James Lowe makes only his third appearance of 2019, while Joe Tomane makes only a second start since November alongside Conor O’Brien in midfield. Fergus McFadden and Barry Daly, at full back, complete the backline.

LEINSTER:

B Daly; F McFadden, C O’Brien, J Tomane, J Lowe; N Reid, L McGrath (c); J McGrath, J Tracy, A Porter, M Kearney, S Fardy, J Murphy, M Deegan, C Doris.

Replacements: B Byrne, P Dooley, M Bent, J Dunne, S Penny, H O’Sullivan, C Frawley, J O’Brien.

BENETTON RUGBY:

J Hayward; R Tavuyara, M Zanon, L Morisi, M Ioane; T Allan (c), D Duvenage; N Quaglio, L Bigi, M Riccioni, I Herbst, F Ruzza, S Negri, A Steyn, T Halafihi.

Replacements: T Baravalle, D Appiah, S Ferrari, M Lazzaroni, G Pettinelli, T Tebaldi, A Rizzi, A Sgarbi.

Ref: Nigel Owens (WRU)

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