Champions Cup team news: Conor Murray ruled out, Marty Moore replaces Mike Ross, no Tommy Bowe
The team news for this weekend's crucial Champions Cup clashes involving the Irish provinces is in.
As expected there was very bad news on the injury front for Munster with their star scrum-half Conor Murray missing the trip to Allianz Park to play Saracens with a neck injury (kick-off 1pm).
Duncan Williams comes in at number 9 in one of eight changes made by Anthony Foley from last week's victory over Zebre in Italy.
Further changes to the backline see Denis Hurley return to partner Pat Howard in midfield while Andrew Conway gets the nod ahead of Keith Earls on the wing, with Simon Zebo and Felix Jones making up the remainder of the back three.
A clean sweep of changes are made in the front row with James Cronin and BJ Botha packing down on either side of Duncan Casey at loosehead and tighthead respectively.
In the second row Paul O'Connell returns to partner Dave Foley, while in the back row Peter O'Mahony reverts back to blindside with Tommy O'Donnell coming in at openside and CJ Stander continuing at number 8.
Munster: (15-9) Felix Jones; Andrew Conway, Pat Howard, Denis Hurley, Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams; (1-8) James Cronin, Duncan Casey, BJ Botha; Dave Foley, Paul O'Connell; Peter O'Mahony Capt., Tommy O'Donnell, CJ Stander.
Replacements: (16-23) Eusebio Guinazu, John Ryan, Stephen Archer, Billy Holland, Dave O'Callaghan, Ronan O'Mahony, JJ Hanrahan, Keith Earls.
Saracens: Alex Goode; Chris Ashton, Marcelo Bosch, Brad Barritt, David Strettle; Owen Farrell, Richard Wigglesworth; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Petrus Du Plessis; Jim Hamilton; Alistair Hargreaves (Capt.); Kelly Brown, Jacques Burger, Billy Vunipola.
Replacements: Brett Sharman, Richard Barrington, James Johnston, Maro Itoje, Ernst Joubert, Neil de Kock, Charlie Hodgson, Chris Wyles.
As reported in today's Irish Independent, Marty Moore comes in for Mike Ross in the front row for Leinster and Jamie Heaslip has recovered from a shoulder problem to take their place in Leinster's lineup for tomorrow's clash with Castres at the RDS (kick-off 5.30pm).
The front row consists of Michael Bent, Sean Cronin and Marty Moore.
Moore came through his 51 minutes against Cardiff last weekend and reported no issues with his shoulder during the week and will make only his fourth appearance of the season.
Mike McCarthy and Devin Toner start in the second row, while in the back row Jack Conan will start his first Champions Cup game for Leinster having appeared off the bench in three of the previous four rounds. Having only played once last season for Leinster due to injury this will be the Wicklow man's 14th game of the current season.
Jordi Murphy is selected at openside flanker while Jamie Heaslip captains the side from the base of the scrum in his 196th appearance for Leinster.
As was the case against Cardiff, in the backs Rob Kearney is selected at full back while Fergus McFadden and Dave Kearney will take up positions on the right and left wings.
Ian Madigan and Luke Fitzgerald is the centre partnership, while Eoin Reddan and Jimmy Gopperth are selected in the half back positions. Luke McGrath is selected as the replacement scrum half and is in line to make his European debut for Leinster should he come on.
Leinster: (15-9) Rob Kearney, Fergus McFadden, Luke Fitzgerald, Ian Madigan, Dave Kearney, Jimmy Gopperth, Eoin Reddan; (1-8) Michael Bent, Sean Cronin, Marty Moore, Devin Toner, Mike McCarthy, Jack Conan, Jordi Murphy, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: (16-23) Richardt Strauss, Jamie Hagan, Tadhg Furlong, Kane Douglas, Dominic Ryan, Luke McGrath, Gordon D'Arcy, Darragh Fanning
Castres: Julien Dumora; Romain Martial, Thomas Combezou, Romain Cabannes (Capt.), Marcel Garvey; Daniel Kirkpatrick, Rory Kockott; Saimone Taumoepeau, Marc-Antoine Rallier, Ramiro Herrera; Richie Gray, Christophe Samson; Ibrahim Diarra, Jannie Bornman, Johnnie Beattie.
Replacements: Mathieu Bonello, Paea Faanunu, Benjamin Desroche, Yohan Montes, Piula Faasalele, Remi Tales, Remi Grosso, Antoine Dupont.
Ulster coach Neil Doak has named his side for their daunting trip to face reigning European champions Toulon in France tomorrow (kick-off 3.15pm).
The nothern province are boosted by the return of Jared Payne from injury and he lines up at full-back with Louis Ludik moving to the right wing to replace Tommy Bowe.
The side sees seven changes and two positional switches to the side that beat Treviso in Italy last Sunday.
Darren Cave partners Stuart Olding in the centre while Michael Allen comes into the side on the left wing with Paddy Jackson and Springbok scrum-half, Ruan Pienaar, named in the halfbacks.
There is a completely new front row with Andrew Warwick picked at loosehead, Rob Herring selected at hooker and Bronson Ross, who starts his first game for Ulster, named at tighthead in place of the injured Wiehahn Herbst.
Alan O’Connor continues in the second row where he is joined by Franco van der Merwe who returns to the side having been ill last week.
In the back row, Clive Ross moves to openside, Mike McComish is selected at blindside and captain Roger Wilson starts the game at Number 8.
Forwards John Andrew, Callum Black, Declan Fitzpatrick, Lewis Stevenson and Robbie Diack join backs Paul Marshall, Ian Humphreys and Michael Heaney on the replacements bench.
Ulster: (15-9) J Payne; L Ludik, D Cave, S Olding, M Allen, P Jackson, R Pienaar; (1-8) A Warwick, R Herring, B Ross, A O’Connor, F Van der Merwe, C Ross, M McComish, R Wilson.
Replacements (16-23): J Andrew, C Black, D Fitzpatrick, L Stevenson, R Diack, P Marshall, I Humphreys, M Heaney.
Toulon: Leigh Halfpenny; Drew Mitchell, Mathieu Bastareaud, Maxime Mermoz, Bryan Habana; Nicolas Sanchez, Sebastien Tillous-Borde; Xavier Chiocci, Guilhem Guirado, Martin Castrogiovanni; Jocelino Suta, Ali Williams; Juan Smith, Steffon Armitage, Chris Masoe (Capt.) .
Replacements: Jean-Charles Orioli, Florian Fresia, Carl Hayman, Mamuka Gorgodze, Rudi Wulf, David Smith, Eric Escande, Romain Taofifenua.
Connacht face the Exeter Chiefs in the Challenge Cup and have made four changes from the sides that was beaten last week by Edinburgh at the Sportsground.
Pat Lam's side need to win their last two games to advance to the knockout stages.
Craig Ronaldson has been handed the reins at outhalf in a half back pairing with 22-year-old Ireland international Kieran Marmion who marks his 70th appearance for Connacht.
Dave McSharry, whose new two-year deal with the province was confirmed today, starts in the centre with Robbie Henshaw while Matt Healy returns to the left wing to shift Danie Poolman to the right.
The only change to the pack sees Number 8 George Naoupu promoted from the bench to start in a back row with Willie Faloon and captain John Muldoon.
Commenting on the team selection and the upcoming game, Head Coach Pat Lam said: “With a new challenge this week, we’ve changed up our back line slightly for the visit of Exeter Chiefs. Craig (Ronaldson) did very well for us against Munster and, after coming back from injury, he gets a chance again on Sunday. With Bundee (Aki) unfortunately out injured for the next while, it’s great to be able to call on the experience of Dave (McSharry). And with the different conditions expected this week, Matt Healy returns.
“This is a massively important game for us. While we have stated that our main priority is the PRO12, another of our big team goals is to progress in Europe to the knock out stages. This game on Sunday against a quality Premiership side in Exeter is vital in determining who tops this group.
“The weather is looking dry for our Sunday afternoon kick off so that will make for a change for us and also our fantastic supporters who have braved the tough conditions the last two weeks. We’re all looking forward to another packed Sportsground.”
Connacht: (15-9) Mils Muliaina, Danie Poolman, Robbie Henshaw, Dave McSharry, Matt Healy, Craig Ronaldson, Kieran Marmion; (1-8) Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Rodney Ah You, Quinn Roux, Aly Muldowney, John Muldoon, Willie Faloon, George Naoupu.
Replacements: (16-23) Dave Heffernan, JP Cooney, Finlay Bealham, Andrew Browne, Eoin McKeon, Caolin Blade, Jack Carty, Darragh Leader.