As his side aim to secure a seventh consecutive Guinness Pro12 victory, Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has made six changes to his starting line-up for tonight’s clash with Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium.
Following the announcement of his three-week suspension for an alleged stamping offence on Connacht’s Nathan White, Fergus McFadden is ruled out of contention.
His place on the right wing will be taken by club captain Isa Nacewa, who joins the Kearney brothers — Rob and Dave — in a highly-experienced back-three.
In spite of his excellent recent form, Garry Ringrose has been rested for this encounter, and with Ben Te’o moving to outside centre, Luke Fitzgerald will make his seventh start of the season alongside the New Zealand native.
Jack McGrath and Richardt Strauss are joined in the front-row by tighthead prop Tadhg Furlong, while in the absence of Cian Healy through injury and suspension, 21-year-old academy star Peter Dooley will once again take his place amongst the replacements.
Both Furlong and Dooley have made significant progress within the past 12 months, and as Leinster backs coach Girvan Dempsey remarked in UCD on Monday, luck can play a huge part in the development of any player.
“Massively so, in any sport it is,” said Dempsey. “It’s making sure that you’re ready when the opportunity arrives. Even back when I was playing, and I’ve no issues saying it, you always needed a bit of luck if somebody got an injury and you stepped in. You made sure that you took that chance and you take hold of it.”
“It’s always hard to take a jersey off someone when they’re playing well, so it is a bit of luck. You do need a bit of luck, and the younger guys have had a bit of luck, but they’re also making a bit of luck in how they prepare themselves.”
Elsewhere in the Blues’ pack, Devin Toner and Mike McCarthy retain their places in the second row, and with 127 international appearances between them, Rhys Ruddock, Sean O’Brien, and Jamie Heaslip are a formidable back-row combination.
However, with 14 (past and present) internationals in their match-day squad, seventh-place Ospreys will be hoping to maintain their impressive recent league run, and with the likes of Sean Cronin, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan, and the fit-again Noel Reid in reserve for Leinster, it is likely that their services will be called upon at some point.
R Kearney; I Nacewa, B Te’o, L Fitzgerald, D Kearney; J Sexton, L McGrath; J McGrath, R Strauss, T Furlong; D Toner, M McCarthy; R Ruddock, S O’Brien, J Heaslip.
S Cronin, P Dooley, M Moore, T Denton, D Ryan, E Reddan, I Madigan, N Reid.
D Evans; J Hassler, J Spratt, O Watkin, H Dirksen; D Biggar, B Leonard; P James, S Baldwin, A Jarvis; L Ashley, R Thornton; J King, S Underhill, D Baker.
S Otten, N Smith, M Fia, AW Jones, J Tipuric, T Habberfield, S Davies, E Walker.
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