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Dublin: 12 °C Saturday 1 November, 2014

O’Brien on the Leinster bench, as Best and Pienaar return for Ulster

Matt O’Connor has made eight changes, while there are surprises in both starting XVs.

Will Sean O'Brien's impact from the bench be decisive in this game?
Will Sean O'Brien's impact from the bench be decisive in this game?
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

LEINSTER HEAD COACH Matt O’Connor has made eight changes to the starting team that faced Edinburgh last weekend, ahead of tomorrow’s RaboDirect Pro12 semi-final against Ulster at the RDS [KO 7.00pm].

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the inclusion of South African lock Quinn Roux alongside Devin Toner in the second row, with Mike McCarthy having been ruled out due to a calf injury. Leo Cullen provides back-up to that duo on the bench.

Martin Moore is preferred to the more experienced Mike Ross at tighthead prop, with the latter named among the replacements. Sean Cronin – in for the injured Richardt Strauss – and Cian Healy complete the front row.

Sean O’Brien has to settle for a spot on the bench, as Rhys Ruddock, Shane Jennings and the durable captain Jamie Heaslip make up the back row.

At scrum-half, Eoin Reddan returns from a shoulder injury to start in place of Isaac Boss, partnering Jimmy Gopperth in the halfbacks.

The attacking threat in the three-quarter line is all-Irish as Gordon D’Arcy and Brian O’Driscoll aim to provide a back three of Rob Kearney, Fergus McFadden and Dave Kearney with ample scoring chances.

Rory Best 27/9/2013

Rory Best returns for what should be a thrilling encounter.

Source: Darren Kidd/Presseye.com

Meanwhile, Ulster coach Mark Anscombe welcomes back Ruan Pienaar and Rory Best from injury by naming them in this starting XV for tomorrow evening’s highly-anticipated encounter.

Craig Gilroy has retained his place at fullback, with Jared Payne set to wear the 13 shirt. Darren Cave is selected at inside centre, meaning Ireland international Luke Marshall has to be content with a place on the bench.

In the front row, Best is joined by Callum Black at loosehead and the returning Ricky Lutton on the tighthead side. Iain Henderson gets the nod ahead of Dan Tuohy in the second row, where he partners captain Johann Muller.

With Nick Williams out injured, Roger Wilson starts at No. 8, with Chris Henry and Robbie Diack packing down in the flanker positions.

Leinster: Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Dave Kearney; Jimmy Gopperth, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Martin Moore; Devin Toner, Quinn Roux; Rhys Ruddock, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip (capt.).

Replacements: Aaron Dundon, Jack McGrath, Mike Ross, Leo Cullen, Sean O’Brien, Isaac Boss, Ian Madigan, Zane Kirchner.

Ulster: Craig Gilroy; Tommy Bowe, Jared Payne, Darren Cave, Andrew Trimble; Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar; Callum Black, Rory Best, Ricky Lutton; Johann Muller (capt.), Iain Henderson, Robbie Diack, Chris Henry, Roger Wilson.

Replacements: Rob Herring, Andrew Warwick, Adam Macklin, Dan Tuohy, Sean Doyle, Paul Marshall, James McKinney, Luke Marshall.

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