Wednesday 16 October 2019

Brian O'Driscoll returns but Sean O'Brien misses Pro12 finale

Leinster's Brian O'Driscoll. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Leinster's Brian O'Driscoll. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Brian O'Driscoll returns to Leinster's starting XV for tomorrow's Rabodirect Pro12 final clash with Ulster at the RDS but Sean O'Brien misses out.

The Tullow Tank has been struggling to recover from bone bruising to his knee sustained in last Friday's Amlin Challenge Cup win over Stade Francais.

Joe Schmidt, who names his Leinster team for the final time, has made six changes to his starting line-up for the inter-provincial grudge match.

Most of the changes are in the pack where Cian Healy, Richardt Strauss, captain Leo Cullen, Shane Jennings and Kevin McLaughlin come back in to join O’Driscoll on the night when Isa Nacewa, Jonathan Sexton and Joe Schmidt will say their farewell to Leinster.

Ulster boss Mark Anscombe makes just once change to the Ulster team for the game with Kiwi John Afoa coming in at tighthead prop.

He missed the semi-final against the Scarlets a fortnight ago with a hamstring strain but has recovered in time to regain his place in the starting line-up.

Commenting on his selection, Ulster Head Coach, Mark Anscombe, said: "It’s great to be able to welcome John back into the starting line-up. John and players like Ruan (Pienaar) and Johann (Muller) have been part of World Cup winning squads.

"When the big moments come, they are cool heads under pressure and you can’t put a price on that. When you put them together with our Ireland internationals and our excellent young players like Stuart Olding then you have a great mix.

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"However, Leinster are a quality team and we have a huge amount of respect for them. They will ask a lot of questions of us and we will have to play at our very best to beat them.

"This is a massive match, a local derby and it is an occasion that everyone at Ulster is looking forward to. In recent seasons Ulster have been the bridesmaids too often. We have done our learning – it’s now time to step up and to prove that we are good enough."

Leinster: (15-9)R Kearney; F McFadden, B O’Driscoll, I Madigan, I Nacewa; J Sexton, I Boss; (1-8) C Healy, R Strauss, M Ross, L Cullen (capt), D Toner, K McLaughlin, S Jennings, J Heaslip.

Replacements: (16-23) Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath,Jamie Hagan, Quinn Roux, Rhys Ruddock, John Cooney, Andrew Goodman, Andrew Conway.

Ulster:  (15-9): J Payne, A Trimble, D Cave, S Olding, T Bowe, P Jackson, R Pienaar;(1-8): T Court, R Best, J Afoa, J Muller (C), D Tuohy, R Diack, C Henry, N Williams.

Replacements (16-23): R Herring, C Black, D Fitzpatrick, I Henderson, M McComish, P Marshall, M Allen, P Nelson.

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