Leinster Rugby have named their team for the first home game of the Pro14 season, with Devin Toner playing his 200th game for the province – start time 7:35pm Friday.
The night and the occasion belongs to Meath man Devin Toner who will lead the team out on the occasion of his 200th cap for Leinster. In doing so he becomes only the sixth Leinster player to have achieved that milestone with Jamie Heaslip the only other player in the current squad.
He has scored three tries in his 199 caps to date with the last one coming in September 2012 against the Scarlets.
The 6’10” lock made his debut in January 2006 in a home win against Border Reivers and will be hoping for a similar result 12 seasons later.
Elsewhere Cullen has picked the same back line – bar one – that accounted for Dragons last week in Rodney Parade with Irish scrum half Luke McGrath the only change as he starts beside Ross Byrne.
Otherwise it’s as you were with Rob Kearney at full back, Adam Byrne on the right wing and Jordan Larmour on the left for his first senior game in the RDS Arena. Larmour made a try scoring start to his Leinster career last week.
Isa Nacewa again captains the side from inside centre with Rory O’Loughlin outside him at 13.
Once again Cian Healy and Michael Bent are chosen as the props but James Tracy comes in at hooker for his first start of the campaign.
In the second row, once again Scott Fardy has been partnered with Toner, as the 39 times capped Australian international makes his RDS debut.
There are two changes to the back row with only Josh van der Flier retained as he again starts at openside. Rhys Ruddock is involved for the first time this season fresh from captaining the Irish team during the summer on their unbeaten tour of the USA and Japan. Jack Conan is the final name on Cullen’s starting XV having impressed off the bench against Dragons.
On the bench there is a first involvement of the season for Mick Kearney.
Tickets for Leinster Rugby’s first home game of the season against Cardiff Blues at the RDS Arena tomorrow, Friday, 8th September (KO 7.35pm), are on sale now. Get tickets from €20.
Leinster Rugby (Leinster caps in brackets):
15. Rob Kearney (186)
14. Adam Byrne (22)
13. Rory O’Loughlin (22)
12. Isa Nacewa (171) CAPTAIN
11. Jordan Larmour (1)
10. Ross Byrne (24)
9. Luke McGrath (75)
1. Cian Healy (173)
2. James Tracy (43)
3. Michael Bent (88)
4. Devin Toner (199)
5. Scott Fardy (1)
6. Rhys Ruddock (131)
7. Josh van der Flier (47)
8. Jack Conan (52)
16. Seán Cronin (129)
17. Ed Byrne (8)
18. Andrew Porter (9)
19. Mick Kearney (21)
20. Dan Leavy (40)
21. Nick McCarthy (8)
22. Cathal Marsh (19)
23. Barry Daly (11)
Referee: Andrew Brace (IRFU)
Cardiff Blues have made six changes to their starting line-up to take on Leinster in the Guinness PRO14 on Friday night (7.35pm).
Following a disappointing home defeat to Edinburgh, the Blues travel to Dublin with a much changed team and a determination to bounce back.
Four of the changes come in the backline with full-back Rhun Williams making a welcome return to fitness to start ahead of Matthew Morgan.
Garyn Smith comes into the centre, Tom James, who made his 150th appearance last week, starts on the wing and Steve Shingler has been given the nod at fly-half.
There are two more, injury-forced, changes up front with Keiron Assiratti replacing Taufa’ao Filise and Macauley Cook starting on the blindside with Josh Turnbull switching to number eight.
Cardiff Blues head coach Danny Wilson admits the loss to Edinburgh was hard to take but he has called for a response at the RDS.
He said: “The Edinburgh performance didn’t look any better on Monday but hopefully it is a quick fix. We have done some pretty physical contact work this week to put it right because it’s not like us.
“A week before we were extremely physical against a big Exeter side but we didn’t see that same edge and presence against Edinburgh. That’s the disappointing thing, especially when it’s your first home game in the league
“We have dealt with it, we have moved on and I know with this group we can bounce back and there is no better challenge than away to Leinster.”
Wilson was in the stands as Leinster kicked-off their season with a commanding victory over the Dragons.
And while he admits it is a daunting challenge, he insists his side can take confidence from their performance in Dublin at the end of the season, where they slipped to an agonising one-point loss.
He added: “Their defence was extremely aggressive against the Dragons and they have increased their line-speed.
“They were heavily competing at the breakdowns, especially in the wide channels and they obviously play a very attractive brand of rugby while also being able to overpower teams with a big pack of forwards.
“Leinster in Leinster is always a huge challenge whichever team you play but it’s one we will be motivated for.
“Last year we took them to the wire in a game which was won by one point and was arguably a game we could have nicked.
“It’s a strong test but we will draw on the confidence from the way we performed there last season and can hopefully produce something similar.”
Cardiff Blues: R Williams, A Cuthbert, G Smith, R Lee-Lo, T James; S Shingler, L Williams; R Gill, M Rees, K Assiratti, S Davies, D Welch, M Cook, J Navidi, J Turnbull.
Replacements: K Myhill, C Domachowski, D Lewis, J Down, S Bennett, T Williams, J Evans, M Morgan.
The following players were unavailable for selection due to injury:
Taufa’ao Filise – knee
Gethin Jenkins – knee
Anton Peikrishvili – lower back
Kristian Dacey – groin
Ethan Lewis – hamstring
George Earle – heal
Ellis Jenkins – hamstring
Jim Botham – ankle
Nick Williams – concussion
Gareth Anscombe – groin
Blaine Scully – elbow
Cam Lewis – hamstring
Owen lane – groin