Much-changed Leinster unlikely to match formidable Ulster

It is just over six months since Leinster dealt so ruthlessly with an emerging Ulster side at Twickenham but the shift in the axis of power has been leaning ever further up the M1 this season.

Just how far it has gone we should see tonight.

Mark Anscombe has named the stronger side, with just three personnel changes from the 15 which began the 10-9 defeat by Northampton in Belfast last Friday. Two have been enforced, with Craig Gilroy benefiting from Tommy Bowe’s ankle injury and Neil McComb taking over in the second-row from the crocked Dan Tuohy.

Luke Marshall is preferred at inside centre to Paddy Wallace while Robbie Diack slots in instead of Roger Wilson who reverts to the bench. Nick Williams, formerly of Munster, shuffles across the back row to take the number eight shirt.

It’s a strong line-up but, that said, Gilroy, Wilson and Darren Cave have all been struggling with illness while captain Chris Henry has had to contend with the passing of a close family member.

Facing them is a side containing eight new faces — many young and inexperienced — from that which received Clermont at the Aviva and, of the seven starting again, three have been shuffled into different positions.

With Isa Nacewa joining an already lengthy injury list, Jonathan Sexton being given the next two weeks off and Andrew Goodman named on the bench, Joe Schmidt has drafted in Noel Reid, Andrew Conway and Brendan Macken into his back line. Ian Madigan migrates from 15 to 10.

Michael Bent deputises for Mike Ross for just his second provincial start in an entirely new front row while Sean Cronin replaces the injured Richardt Strauss and Cian Healy takes over from Heinke van der Merwe.

Damien Browne loses out to Devin Toner in the second row while Kevin McLaughlin has recovered from the head injury which saw him sit out last weekend’s loss at Lansdowne Road and takes over from Shane Jennings.

Neither side will lack for motivation and, though Leinster need the points more, they have suffered from the litany of changes to their line-up this season while Ulster bring home advantage and the superior form to the proceedings.

Looks like a home win.


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