Kearney and McGrath given chance to prove Six Nations fitness with Leinster but bad news for Dan Leavy
Leo Cullen is delighted to have the chance to feature Irish Grand Slam stars Rob Kearney and Jack McGrath against the Scarlets in the RDS tomorrow evening.
And the Leinster coach is hoping that he can return the favour to his Irish counterpart by delivering the key duo into Joe Schmidt's care next week ahead of the titanic Six Nations opener against England.
Neither Kearney nor McGrath were in Portugal with the rest of the Ireland squad this week as they continue their respective returns from injury but Schmidt was keen for the pair to be given a chance to prove their fitness.
And that suits Cullen just fine as his inexperienced squad contains seven Academy players.
Kearney will captain the side from full-back after overcoming a leg issue which sidelined him for the Champions Cup wins over Toulouse and Wasps while loosehead McGrath starts his second successive game following hip surgery.
"I've no restrictions on Rob Kearney or Jack McGrath this week in terms of minutes," said Cullen.
"Jack got 45 minutes last week and coming back from injury, especially for a tight five forward, getting time on the field is important.
"Rob has been unlucky since missing out on a couple of weeks and it is a good chance to showcase his skills with some big games coming up. He has come through training well."
There was less promising news for Dan Leavy, however, as his window of opportunity closed yesterday after failing to pass a fitness test on a troublesome calf.
"Dan Leavy's recovery is a little bit slower than anticipated with his calf and it is tricky now with a couple of weeks off. He hadn't cleared his markers in time."
Leinster Rugby (caps in brackets):
15. Rob Kearney (204) CAPTAIN
14. Barry Daly (29)
13. Rory O’Loughlin (54)
12. Conor O’Brien (11)
11. James Lowe (23)
10. Ciarán Frawley (9)
9. Hugh O’Sullivan (7)
1. Jack McGrath (139)
2. James Tracy (83)
3. Michael Bent (115)
4. Ross Molony (77)
5. Mick Kearney (44)
6. Max Deegan (34)
7. Scott Penny (3)
8. Caelan Doris (8)
16. Bryan Byrne (34)
17. Ed Byrne (35)
18. Vakh Abdaladze (4)
19. Jack Dunne (0)
20. Oisín Dowling (1)
21. Jamison Gibson-Park (65)
22. Noel Reid (113)
23. Jimmy O’Brien (3)