Leinster & Ulster Name Teams For PRO14 Final As Henderson Returns & Sexton Is Benched
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Leinster and Ulster have named their teams for this weekend’s Guinness PRO14 final at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
The Ulster men will be boosted by the return of club captain, Iain Henderson, who will be making his first appearance since the season resumption and is one of four changes to the side that defeated Edinburgh in last week’s thrilling Semi-Final at BT Murrayfield.
Alan O’Connor will partner Henderson in the second row, while the front row of Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring and Tom O’Toole is retained. The back-row sees one change, with Sean Reidy coming into the starting line-up at openside flanker. Matthew Rea takes the blindside flanker position and Marcell Coetzee packs down at number eight.
The back three sees two positional switches, with Jacob Stockdale moving to the left wing, while Rob Lyttle swaps over to the right. Joining them at fullback is Michael Lowry, returning to the starting XV.
Stuart McCloskey continues his midfield partnership with James Hume. All Black scrum-half, Alby Mathewson, will make his first start for Ulster alongside Billy Burns at fly-half.
McFarland has opted for a 6-2 split on the bench where John Andrew, Jack McGrath, Marty Moore, Sam Carter, Jordi Murphy and Nick Timoney will offer the forward backup, and the backline cover is provided by John Cooney and Ian Madigan.
Ulster: Michael Lowry, Rob Lyttle, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Billy Burns, Alby Mathewson; Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Iain Henderson (CAPT), Matthew Rea, Sean Reidy, Marcell Coetzee.
Replacements: John Andrew, Jack McGrath, Marty Moore, Sam Carter, Jordi Murphy, John Cooney, Ian Madigan, Nick Timoney.
Leinster boss Leo Cullen meanwhile has made a number of changes from the team that accounted for Munster Rugby in the semi-final with Garry Ringrose named as captain of the senior side for the first time and Johnny Sexton rested on the bench.
The back three is the same that started against Munster last week with Jordan Larmour selected at fullback having come through the graduated return to play protocols successfully this week and Hugo Keenan on the right wing and James Lowe on the left.
Robbie Henshaw is again selected at inside centre with captain Ringrose outside him in the number 13 jersey. The half back partnership sees Jamison Gibson-Park and Ross Byrne start at nine and 10.
In the pack, there is no change in the front row with Cian Healy, Rónan Kelleher and Andrew Porter again selected. In winning his 219th cap, Cian Healy joins Leo Cullen and Rob Kearney as the joint 4th most capped player in Leinster history.
James Ryan has recovered from injury to take his place in the second row alongside Devin Toner.
Finally in the back row, Guinness Player of the Match from last week Caelan Doris is again selected at blindside flanker with Josh van der Flier at openside and finally, Jack Conan is selected in the number eight jersey.
Leinster: Jordan Larmour, Hugo Keenan, Garry Ringrose (CAPT), James Lowe, Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Cian Healy, Rónan Kelleher, Andrew Porter, Devin Toner, James Ryan, Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.
Replacements: James Tracy, Ed Byrne, Michael Bent, Scott Fardy, Will Connors, Luke McGrath, Johnny Sexton, Rory O’Loughin.