Ross Byrne given first start at 10 since December against Ulster

The Leinster out-half is one of four Ireland squad members released back to the province for a top-of-the-table clash with their provincials rivals in Belfast
Ross Byrne given first start at 10 since December against Ulster

Leinster's Ross Byrne kicks a penalty. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

Ross Byrne has had to be patient as other 10s have hogged the limelight in recent weeks but the 25-year-old will take the reins for Leinster when they face Ulster in a crucial Guinness PRO14 tie in Belfast tomorrow.

Johnny Sexton returned to the Ireland XV against Italy last week and, with Billy Burns his back-up so far in the Six Nations, Byrne has had to fit in where and as he can for Leinster with whom he has lined out at 12 and 13 in the last two months.

His turn at inside-centre came away to Dragons last month with his younger brother Harry starting at out-half. All told, this will be Ross Byrne’s first start in his preferred position since the Champions Cup game against Northampton in mid-December.

He is one of four Ireland squad players released back to the province who are starting against their conference rivals in the Kingspan Stadium. Ed Byrne takes a place in the front row while Rhys Ruddock and Josh van der Flier form two-thirds of the back row.

Luke McGrath, who has fallen down the pecking order of Ireland scrum-halves, will once again captain the reigning league champions who sit six points ahead of Ulster in Conference A with just two games apiece to go after this interpro derby.

Ulster welcome Robert Baloucou back into their starting side for the first time since his return from injury. He joins Jacob Stockdale, himself on the road back from a layoff, and Michael lowry in a dangerous back three.

Both Eric O’Sullivan and Tom O’Toole come in to start at loosehead and tighthead prop respectively while the hugely influential Marcell Coetzee makes his return from injury to start at No.8.

Kick-off tomorrow evening is at 7.35pm.

Ulster: M Lowry; R Baloucoune, J Hume, S McCloskey, J Stockdale; I Madigan, J Cooney; E O’Sullivan, J Andrew, T O’Toole; A O’Connor, K Treadwell; N Timoney, J Murphy, M Coetzee.

Replacements: A McBurney, A Warwick, M Moore, C Izuchukwu, S Reidy, A Mathewson, S Moore, R Lyttle.

Leinster: M O’Reilly; C Kelleher, J O’Brien, R O’Loughlin, D Kearney; R Byrne, L McGrath; E Byrne, J Tracy, M Bent; D Toner, S Fardy; R Ruddock, J van der Flier, S Penny.

Replacements: S Cronin, P Dooley, T Clarkson, R Molony, J Murphy, R Osborne, J Osborne, J Dunne.

Referee: F Murphy (IRFU).

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