Sunday 22 April 2018

Rob Kearney one of 11 changes for Leinster while Earls and Cronin return to Munster's match-day 23

Leinster full-back Rob Kearney returns to the starting line-up
Leinster full-back Rob Kearney returns to the starting line-up
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Ireland international Rob Kearney returns to Leinster's team as Matt O'Connor makes wholesale changes against Cardiff while Keith Earls and James Cronin named in Munster's match-day 23.

Munster head coach Anthony Foley has included the returning pair to his replacements bench ahead of the encounter with Zebre in what could be Earls' first appearance of the season.

Prop James Cronin could also feature from the bench after recovering from a shoulder injury sustained during Munster's Champions Cup defeat to Clermont Auvergne at the start of December.

In total Foley makes seven personnel changes from the side that started in the defeat away to Connacht on New Year's Day.

In the front row Eusebio Guinazu makes his first start for the province, doing so at loosehead alongside hooker Kevin O'Byrne and tighthead Stephen Archer, both of whom come back into the starting line-up.

The return of Dave Foley to the second row will see Billy Holland wear the number 5 jersey this weekend, while in the back row number 8 CJ Stander is the only player remaining in situ from the Sportsgound defeat.  Dave O'Callaghan makes his first start since returning from injury at blindside with Peter O'Mahony moving to openside for the first time this season.

Just one personnel change in the back three sees Felix Jones come in at fullback meaning Simon Zebo reverts back to the left wing with Ronan O'Mahony on the opposite flank.

Matt O'Connor welcomes back from injury some high profile names and also those that have been rested during the last few games.

Vice-captain Rob Kearney is back in harness at full back and leads the side with brother Dave on the left wing and Fergus McFadden selected on the right. Dave and Fergus are the only backs retained from last week's starting XV.

It's an all new centre partnership with Noel Reid at 12 and Ben Te'o outside him for his third appearance of the season since joining from the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Noel Reid is back for the first time since his Man of the Match performance against Connacht in December. He had been selected on the bench for the Munster game but illness ruled him out of that and the Ulster game. In the half backs Luke McGrath starts at scrum half with Jimmy Gopperth selected at 10.

In the pack, it's a completely new front five with a front row full of Irish internationals as Michael Bent, Sean Cronin and Marty Moore start. It is Marty Moore's first start since the away trip in October against Zebre. A shoulder injury early in that game has kept him sidelined until now. The second row features Tom Denton and Kane Douglas.

In the back row Dominic Ryan has passed his return to play protocols having been replaced early in the game against Munster on St. Stephen's Day and starts at blindside while Jordi Murphy starts at openside. Finally, after his Guinness PRO12 Man of the Match performance last week against Ulster, Jack Conan starts at eight.

Munster team v Zebre - Munster:  Felix Jones; Ronan O'Mahony, Pat Howard, JJ Hanrahan, Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; Eusebio Guinazu, Kevin O'Byrne, Stephen Archer; Dave Foley, Billy Holland; Dave O'Callaghan, Peter O'Mahony – capt., CJ Stander.

Leinster team v Cardiff: Rob Kearney (c), Fergus McFadden, Ben Te'o, Noel Reid, Dave Kearney, Jimmy Gopperth, Luke McGrath, Michael Bent, Sean Cronin, Marty Moore, Tom Denton, Kane Douglas, Dominic Ryan, Jordi Murphy, Jack Conan.

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