LEINSTER HEAD COACH Matt O’Connor has named Jimmy Gopperth as his starting out-half for Sunday’s Heineken Cup quarter-final against Toulon at Stade Mayol [KO 4.30pm Irish time].
Ian Madigan is restricted to a bench role as O’Connor opts for the game management of the 30-year-old Kiwi, who has played a total of 8 minutes since the clash with Cardiff on the 20th of February.
Cian Healy comes back into the starting line-up at loosehead prop after recovering from his ankle problem, while Rhys Ruddock returns at blindside flanker following his rehabilitation from a calf issue.
There is one further change in the backline, where Six Nations champion Dave Kearney is called back in on the left wing in place of Luke Fitzgerald, who fails to make the match-day squad. Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy are fit to start in midfield, while Rob Kearney remains at fullback.
On the bench, Jack McGrath and Martin Moore are included, while Sean Cronin will look to make a second half impact. Jordi Murphy, Isaac Boss, Madigan, Zane Kirchner and Leo Cullen provide further international experience in reserve.
Meanwhile, Toulon’s starting team sees Jonny Wilkinson return as captain and out-half after missing last weekend’s Top 14 victory over Toulouse with a thigh injury.
Steffon Armitage continues at No. 8 in a powerful back row, alongside former Springbok Juan Smith and Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe of Argentina. With Bakkies Botha and Ali Williams both missing, the lock pairing is made up of Danie Rossouw and Jocelino Suta.
In the front-row, Carl Hayman’s experience and scrummaging power will test Leinster, while Craig Burden and Xavier Chiocci make many contributions around the pitch. Matt Giteau and Mathieu Bastareaud form a complementary centre partnership, while Delon Armitage, Drew Mitchell and David Smith provide the finishing power.
Leinster: Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Dave Kearney; Jimmy Gopperth, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross; Devin Toner, Mike McCarthy; Rhys Ruddock, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip (capt.).
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath, Martin Moore, Leo Cullen, Jordi Murphy, Isaac Boss, Ian Madigan, Zane Kirchner.
Toulon: Delon Armitage; Drew Mitchell, Mathieu Bastareaud, Matt Giteau, David Smith; Jonny Wilkinson (capt.), Sebastién Tillous-Borde; Xavier Chiocci, Craig Burden, Carl Hayman; Danie Rossouw, Jocelino Suta; Juan Smith, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, Steffon Armitage.
Replacements: Jean-Charles Orioli, Florian Fresia, Martin Castrogiovanni, Virgile Bruni, Bryan Habana, Maxime Mermoz, Michael Claassens, Konstantine Mikautadze.