Its the second weekend of Champions Cup Rugby and Munster, Leinster & Connacht have named their starting teams.
The Leinster Rugby team to take on Lyon on Saturday away from home in the second round in Pool 1 of the Heineken Champions Cup (Kick Off: 3.15pm – live on BT Sport / RTÉ Radio).
There are a number of changes from the team that picked up a bonus point win at the RDS Arena last weekend against Benetton Rugby, while Kildare man James Tracy is in line to make his 100th appearance for the club off the bench.
Rob Kearney makes his first start for Leinster since returning from the Rugby World Cup, with Jordan Larmour moving to the right wing and James Lowe continuing on the left.
Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose are paired together for the first time this season in the centre, with Luke McGrath and captain Johnny Sexton continuing as the half back pairing.
In the pack Cian Healy and Rónan Kelleher are retained from the starting XV last week, with Tadhg Furlong returning from a back injury to start at tight head.
James Ryan is again selected in the second row, with Scott Fardy winning his 50th cap as his partner for the trip to France.
In the back row it’s the same two on the flanks, with Rhys Ruddock at blindside and Josh van der Flier at openside winning his 75th cap, with Max Deegan making his first European start from number eight.
Amongst the replacements former Newbridge College pupil James Tracy is in line to win his 100th cap should he be introduced. The 28-year-old Irish international hooker made his Leinster debut off the bench in November 2012 against the Ospreys and has won six international caps since then for Ireland as well as two Guinness PRO14 titles and a Heineken Champions Cup title in 2018.
Josh Murphy is in line to make his European debut off the bench. The Wexford native has 26 caps to his name already in the Guinness PRO14 but the game tomorrow is his first involvement in a European match day squad.
Leinster Rugby (caps in brackets):
15. Rob Kearney (211)
14. Jordan Larmour (40)
13. Garry Ringrose (66)
12. Robbie Henshaw (38)
11. James Lowe (35)
10. Johnny Sexton (161) CAPTAIN
9. Luke McGrath (115)
1. Cian Healy (210)
2. Rónan Kelleher (8)
3. Tadhg Furlong (102)
4. Scott Fardy (49)
5. James Ryan (32)
6. Rhys Ruddock (163)
7. Josh van der Flier (74)
8. Max Deegan (53)
16. James Tracy (99)
17. Ed Byrne (46)
18. Andrew Porter (55)
19. Devin Toner (237)
20. Josh Murphy (26)
21. Jamison Gibson-Park (77)
22. Ross Byrne (77)
23. Dave Kearney (140)
Connacht scrum-half Caolin Blade is set to make his 100th appearance for his home province as his side take on Toulouse in the second round of the Heineken Champions Cup on Saturday (k/o 1pm Irish time).
The 25 year old from Monivea picked up the Man of the Match award in the opening round win over Montpellier and he will be hoping for a repeat performance as he forms a half-back partnership with Conor Fitzgerald against the French Top 14 champions.
Connacht are boosted by the return of international lock Quinn Roux who will captain the side in the absence of Jarrad Butler. Roux will line up alongside Ultan Dillane in the second row after the latter came through the Montpellier game unscathed following a recent back injury.
In the front row there are two changes, with Dave Heffernan coming in at hooker and Peter McCabe at loosehead. Dominic Robertson-McCoy is retained at tighthead with Finlay Bealham named on the bench after a two week layoff with injury.
In the back row, the versatile Eoghan Masterson comes in at blindside with Colby Fainga’a at openside and Robin Copeland starting again at number 8.
There is a reshuffle in the backline, with Matt Healy at full back in a back three that sees Kyle Godwin and John Porch on the wings, while Tom Farrell comes into the midfield alongside Tom Daly.
Commenting ahead of the game, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said:
“We were happy with the character shown against Montpellier but we know we will need to improve as we travel away to Toulouse. We have seen the quality they have in the past few seasons in this competition and winning the Top 14 in France. However we are travelling with a squad that has a huge sense of belief that we can win the game on Saturday”.
“We are boosted this week with a number of players returning from injury and the real positive for us is that with a six day turnaround from the Montpellier game we have players coming in fresh into the squad. Saturday is another challenge for us but one we are really looking forward to”, he added.
Connacht Matchday Squad v Toulouse (Sat 23 Nov, 1pm Irish Time)
(15-9): Matt Healy, John Porch, Tom Farrell, Tom Daly, Kyle Godwin, Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade. (1-8): Peter McCabe, Dave Heffernan, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux, Eoghan Masterson, Colby Fainga’a, Robin Copeland.
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Matthew Burke, Finlay Bealham, Joe Maksymiw, Paul Boyle, Angus Lloyd, Jack Carty, Peter Robb.
There are three changes to the side that defeated Ospreys last weekend as JJ Hanrahan, Tadhg Beirne and Jack O’Donoghue all come into the starting XV.
Mike Haley starts at full-back with Andrew Conway and Keith Earls on either flank.
Rory Scannell and Chris Farrell continue their centre partnership with Conor Murray and Hanrahan in the half-backs.
Last week’s Man of the Match Jeremy Loughman, Niall Scannell and John Ryan pack down in the front row.
Beirne partners Jean Kleyn in the engine room with O’Donoghue named in a back row that also includes captain Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander.
Alby Mathewson is among the replacements and is set to play his final game for the province.
Munster: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; JJ Hanrahan, Conor Murray; Jeremy Loughman, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne; Peter O’Mahony (C), Jack O’Donoghue, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, James Cronin, Stephen Archer, Billy Holland, Fineen Wycherley, Alby Mathewson, Dan Goggin, Arno Botha.
Player Update: Tyler Bleyendaal reported stiffness this week and was unavailable for selection.
Ticket Update: As always Thomond Park is in store for a huge European occasion with over 24,000 tickets sold at this stage ahead of tomorrow’s 5.30pm kick-off. As the stands are close to capacity, the remaining tickets and terrace tickets are available to buy online via ticketmaster.ie, or from the ticket office in Thomond Park on match-day.