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PRO14 team news: Leinster, Ulster and Connacht name their matchday 23s with a number of Irish internationals rested

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Ross Byrne. Photo: Sportsfile

Ross Byrne. Photo: Sportsfile

Ross Byrne. Photo: Sportsfile

Leinster, Ulster and Connacht continue to rest some of their big games ahead of big European games to come in December.

Leo Cullen has opted to retain a number of young players who performed so well in the demolition of the Ospreys last week for tomorrow's trip to Rodney Parade to face the Dragons.

Hugo Keenan makes his second start for the club after an accomplished first start last weekend with Adam Byrne again selected on the right wing and Dave Kearney coming into the team on the left wing.

There is a positional change in the midfield. Westmeath’s Conor O’Brien is again selected in the centre but makes the switch to inside with Jimmy O’Brien coming into the number 13 jersey after making his debut off the bench last week.

It’s a new halfback partnership this week with Jamison Gibson-Park coming in and partnering the recently capped Irish international, Ross Byrne.

In the pack Ed Byrne starts this week after his try scoring exploits off the bench last week, with James Tracy and Michael Bent again at hooker and tighthead.

Ross Molony and captain Scott Fardy are again selected in the second row and similarly there is no change to the back row with Josh Murphy, Scott Penny and Caelan Doris all retained.

On the bench prop Andrew Porter returns while former Blackrock College student Paddy Patterson is in line to make his debut at scrumhalf.

Leinster: (15-9): H Keenan, A Byrne, J O'Brien, C O'Brien, D Kearney, R Byrne, J Gibson-Park; (1-8) E Byrne, J Tracy, M Bent, R Molony, S Fardy, J Murphy, S Penny, C Doris.

Replacements: (16-23): B Byrne, P Dooley, A Porter, M Kearney, M Deegan, P Patterson, C Frawley, T Daly.

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Connacht boss Andy Friend has made five changes to his team as he bids for back-to-back wins in South Africa against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday (kick-off 3pm Irish time).

Into the side comes hooker Tom McCartney, lock Gavin Thornbury, Paul Boyle and Robin Copeland in the back row and winger Niyi Adeolokun. Connacht are aiming to back up their bonus point win over the Southern Kings last week with a second win on their South African tour.

The inclusion of the experienced McCartney sees him join a front row alongside props Denis Buckley and Conor Carey. In the second row, Ultan Dillane joins Thornbury who is set to start his first game since returning from a shoulder injury that he picked up in the win over Scarlets earlier in the season.

In the back-row Copeland at number 8 and Boyle at blindside will line up alongside skipper Jarrad Butler.

Adeolokun is the only change in the backline with his inclusion on the wing. He will be part of a back three that incudes Matt Healy on the opposite wing and Tiernan O’Halloran at full back.

Jack Carty, man-of-the-match last week, continues his half-back partnership with Caolin Blade as do the midfield duo of Kyle Godwin and Tom Farrell.

While Head Coach Andy Friend was satisfied with the bonus point win last weekend, he says they were still left with plenty of areas for improvement this week: “The win against the Kings last week was hugely important for the morale among the group and it sets us up for the challenge of taking on the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

"The players have worked really hard in training over the two weeks. They have been hugely challenged in the intensity and physicality that we have worked on and they have responded really well. Coming over here we set ourselves the target of two wins and that firmly remains our goal.”

“We will need a step up in intensity and execution from where we were last weekend to challenge the Cheetahs. They are a competitive side who are well able to throw the ball around and open teams up and the boys are well aware of that. But we will continue to focus on our game and constantly improving ourselves and delivering a result."

Connacht (15-9): Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeolokun, Kyle Godwin, Tom Farrell, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Conor Carey, Ultan Dillane, Gavin Thornbury, Paul Boyle, Jarrad Butler (Capt), Robin Copeland.

Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, James Cannon, Colby Fainga’a, James Mitchell, David Horwitz, Cian Kelleher.

Rob Herring will make his 150th appearance for Ulster on Saturday after being named to start at hooker against Cardiff Blues (Kingspan Stadium, 3.00pm).

Herring is one of six players involved in Ireland’s unbeaten Autumn Series to return to Dan McFarland’s match day squad; Jordi Murphy, John Cooney and Stuart McCloskey are also set to start, while Rory Best and Jacob Stockdale are included among the replacements.

Herring will be joined in the front row by Andy Warwick and Marty Moore, with Kieran Treadwell and captain Alan O’Connor continuing in the second row. Murphy’s inclusion at openside flanker means there is a shuffle in the back row with Sean Reidy moving to the other side of the scrum and Marcell Coetzee shifting back to the base.

Cooney, who hasn’t featured for Ulster in six weeks due to a combination of injury and international commitments, is re-instated at scrumhalf and will resume a half-back partnership with Billy Burns. McCloskey and Abbey Insurance Ulster Academy centre James Hume are paired in midfield, while Henry Speight, Louis Ludik and Hume’s Academy teammate Michael Lowry make up the back three.

Best, Academy prop Eric O’Sullivan, Ross Kane, recent signing Ian Nagle and Nick Timoney are named on the bench as forward reinforcements, with Dave Shanahan, Johnny McPhillips and Stockdale covering the backline.

Ulster (15-9): M Lowry; H Speight; J Hume, S McCloskey, L Ludik; B Burns, J Cooney; (1-8): A Warwick, R Herring, M Moore, A O’Connor (captain), K Treadwell, S Reidy, J Murphy, M Coetzee;

Replacements (16-23): R Best, E O’Sullivan, R Kane, I Nagle, N Timoney, D Shanahan, J McPhillips, J Stockdale.


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