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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 20 March, 2019
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Leinster register Conor O'Brien in Champions Cup squad ahead of Toulouse

The 22-year-old centre takes the place of the injured Joe Tomane in Leo Cullen’s panel.

AS WAS EXPECTED, Leinster have employed the option of registering Conor O’Brien to their Heineken Champions Cup squad ahead of Saturday’s showdown against Toulouse.

The 22-year-old centre, who has impressed during his breakthrough season for the province, has been added to the defending champions’ 41-man panel at the expense of Joe Tomane, who is a long-term injury absentee.

Conor O'Brien O'Brien is eligible to face Toulouse on Saturday. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

O’Brien continued his outstanding form with a man-of-the-match performance against Ulster last weekend and his inclusion in Leinster’s European squad is a reflection of his worth as a versatile option at both inside and outside centre.

While Robbie Henshaw could make an ahead-of-schedule return for the round five clash at the RDS [KO 1pm, Virgin Media/Channel 4/BT Sport], O’Brien adds further depth to Cullen’s midfield resources with Tomane sidelined with a hamstring issue.

The former Ireland U20 international received huge praise from Cullen following Saturday’s Pro14 inter-pro win over Ulster, during which O’Brien brought his try-scoring tally to four in seven appearances this term.

Garry Ringrose is expected to return to the Leinster starting XV for this weekend, with Henshaw, O’Brien, Noel Reid and Rory O’Loughlin the candidates to slot in beside the Ireland international, although the latter may be required on the wing in the absence of the suspended James Lowe.

Cullen will name his team to face Toulouse — who have registered Australian second row Richie Arnold — in what is effectively a Pool 1 decider at lunchtime on Friday.

Meanwhile, Ulster have added Robert Baloucoune to their European squad ahead of Saturday’s must-win pool encounter against Racing 92 at Kingspan Stadium [KO 3.15pm, BT Sport].

Back-to-back wins over Scarlets in December has boosted the province’s chances of qualifying for a first Champions Cup quarter-final in five years, but victory over the French side — who lead Pool 4 by five points — is a necessity. 

Henry Speight, who has returned to the Brumbies following his loan spell with Ulster, has been de-registered, with young winger Baloucoune taking his place.

Under EPCR tournament rules, each club may register three additional players during the course of the pool stage, one of whom must be a front row.

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Ryan Bailey

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