Tuesday 24 April 2018

Rabo Pro12 team news: Sean O'Brien makes return from injury as all four provinces make changes

Leinster's Sean O'Brien is helped from the pitch after picking up the injury that left him out for most of the season
Leinster's Sean O'Brien is helped from the pitch after picking up the injury that left him out for most of the season

All four provinces have made sweeping changes for the last round of games in the Rabodirect Pro12 tomorrow night( all games kick-off at 6.30pm) but one change trumps them all.

Leinster boss Matt O'Connor has made eight changes in total from the game last Friday against Ulster and the big news is the return of the Tullow Tank for tomorrow night's game with Edinburgh at the RDS.

Sean O'Brien makes his first appearance in the RaboDirect PRO12 since the December fixture in the RDS against Ulster that ultimately threatened his entire season.

Carried off that evening with a shoulder injury it was thought that his season would be over but his recovery has gone to plan and is actually ahead of schedule so much so that O'Connor has recalled him to the starting XV at a most crucial point in the year.

Jordi Murphy and Jamie Heaslip complete the back row, Murphy coming in for one of last week's try scorers Shane Jennings.

The other changes in the pack sees a completely new front row as recently crowned Leinster Rugby Players' Player of the Year Jack McGrath, lines out with Richardt Strauss and Mike Ross. 

Leo Cullen captains the side form the second row in place of Devin Toner with Mike McCarthy beside him.

There are two changes to the backs with Rob Kearney making way for the returning Fergus McFadden who takes his place on the right wing, with Zane Kirchner taking over the number 15 jersey. McFadden's return is another timely boost as there had been doubts about whether or not he could return in time for the end of season run in.

Dave Kearney is once again selected on the left wing, as are Gordon D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll in the centre.

The final change is a straight swap at outhalf with Jimmy Gopperth coming in for his 27th Leinster cap, with 212 points to his name this year and Ian Madigan reverting to the bench.

Leinster team to play Edinburgh:

LEINSTER: (15-9)Zane Kirchner, Fergus McFadden, Brian O'Driscoll, Gordon D'Arcy, Dave Kearney, Jimmy Gopperth, Isaac Boss; (1-8) Jack McGrath, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, Leo Cullen, Mike McCarthy, Sean O'Brien, Jordi Murphy, Jamie Heaslip.

REPLACEMENTS: (16-23) Sean Cronin, Cian Healy, Martin Moore, Rhys Ruddock, Dominic Ryan, Luke McGrath, Ian Madigan, Rob Kearney.

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Dan Tuohy will captain Ulster tomorrow night in the Province’s final regular season game, against Munster, at Thomond Park.

The Ireland international second-row has captained Ulster for brief periods in matches before, but this interprovincial clash will be the first time that he has lead the Province from the start of a game, something which the 28 year-old views as a huge honour:

“Mark Anscombe pulled me to one side on Monday and said that I was going to captain the team - I was delighted. For me, I am just going to concentrate on my own game, get the lads behind me and hopefully we can put in a decent performance tomorrow night.”

Tuohy’s inclusion is one of 12 changes that Anscombe has made to the side that played Leinster at Ravenhill last week.

There is a completely new backline, with Craig Gilroy starting at fullback, David McIlwaine selected on the right wing and Michael Allen and Hughes Insurance Academy Player of the Year, Stuart McCloskey, starting in the centre.

Rory Scholes is named on the left wing, with James McKinney starting at outhalf and Michael Heaney picked at scrumhalf.

Up front, Callum Black starts at loosehead, with Rob Herring and Andrew Warwick keeping their places in the front row.

Lewis Stevenson partners Tuohy in the second row, while Mike McComish and Sean Doyle start either side of Nick Williams in the back row.

Bronson Ross has recovered from neck surgery and is selected on the bench along with fellow forwards Kyle McCall, Adam Macklin, Neil McComb and Conor Joyce. Backs, David Shanahan, Ricky Andrew and Peter Nelson complete the squad.

ULSTER: (15-9) C Gilroy, D McIlwaine, M Allen, S McCloskey, R Scholes, J McKinney, M Heaney; (1-8); C Black, R Herring, A Warwick, L Stevenson, D Tuohy (Captain), M McComish, S Doyle, N Williams.

REPLACEMENTS: (16-23) K McCall, B Ross, A Macklin, N McComb, C Joyce, D Shanahan, R Andrew, P Nelson.

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Munster Head Coach Rob Penney has made a total of 10 personnel changes to his starting line-up for their clash with Ulster at Thomond from the side that comprehensively defeated Edinburgh last weekend.

In the front row Dave Kilcoyne and Damien Varley come in for James Cronin and Duncan Casey respectively with John Ryan retaining his place at tight-head.  Duncan Casey, who was replaced after 30 minutes against Edinburgh, met with a specialist yesterday and is undergoing surgery today on his right shoulder.

Dave Foley teams up with Paul O'Connell in the second row while Paddy Butler moves from 8 to 6 with Sean Dougall and no.8 James Coughlan completing the back row.

Duncan Williams starts alongside Ian Keatley in the half backs, while the midfield sees the return of James Downey and Casey Laulala.  Simon Zebo switches back to the 11 jersey with Gerhard van den Heever on the opposite wing, and Felix Jones occupies the full back position having sat out last weekend's Edinburgh encounter.

MUNSTER: (15-9) Felix Jones, Gerard van den Heever, Casey Laulala, James Downey, Simon Zebo, Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams; (1-8) Dave Kilcoyne, Damien Varley, John Ryan, Dave Foley, Paul O'Connell, Paddy Butler, Sean Dougall, James Coughlan.

REPLACEMENTS: (16-23) Quentin MacDonald, James Cronin, Cotter, Billy Holland, Tommy O'Donnell, Conor Murray, JJ Hanrahan, Keith Earls.

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 Head coach Pat Lam has made four personnel changes to his side for the final game of his first season in charge at Connacht.

The westerners travel to Liberty Stadium on Saturday evening to face the fifth-placed Ospreys. A win over the Welsh outfit would ensure Connacht equal their best ever league finish of eighth.

Up front, David Heffernan will make first start of the season in Connacht colours, replacing the injured Jason Harris-Wright.

The Mayo-born 23-year-old has made 11 appearances off the bench in this PRO12 campaign, scoring a last-minute try against Munster at Thomond Park.

Heffernan is joined in the front row by loosehead prop Denis Buckley, whose introduction to the starting line-up sees Ronan Loughney switch to tighthehead while Rodney Ah You, who has featured in every game this season, drops back to the replacements bench.

Andrew Browne will line out at blindside flanker with fellow Galway man and captain John Muldoon shifting to number 8.

Openside Conor Gilsenan earns his second PRO12 start for Connacht after his starting debut last weekend as a late replacement for the injured Willie Faloon.

Aly Muldowney and Michael Kearney retain their positions in the second row, completing the province's all-Irish pack.

In the back-line there is a reshuffle in midfield as David McSharry returns at inside centre and Eoin Griffin moves outside him. Robbie Henshaw, who will be joining up with the squad late on Saturday morning due to a family commitment, is named among the reserve backs.

CONNACHT: (15-9) Darragh Leader; Danie Poolman, Eoin Griffin, David McSharry, Matt Healy; Miah Nikora, Kieran Marmion; (1-9) Denis Buckley, David Heffernan, Ronan Loughney, Aly Muldowney, Michael Kearney, Andrew Browne, Conor Gilsenan, John Muldoon (capt).

REPLACEMENTS: (16-23)Jack Dinneen, Finlay Bealham, Rodney Ah You, Michael Swift, Eoin McKeon, Caolin Blade, Dan Parks, Robbie Henshaw.

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Online Editors

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