Devin Toner and Joe McCarthy start for Leinster tonight. Ben Brady/INPHO
second rows

McCarthy gets debut as Leinster look at shuffling their lock stocks

Leo Cullen has named a strong side for tonight’s clash with Cardiff in the URC.

THIS TIME OF year is always a good indicator of Leinster’s strength in depth.

Even with 16 of their players away in Ireland’s Six Nations camp and another pair of internationals – James Lowe and Dan Leavy – on the injury list, the province have been able to name a very strong-looking side for tonight’s clash with Cardiff [KO 7.35pm, TG4/Premier Sports/URC TV].

Leo Cullen’s team for the visit to Cardiff Arms Park includes 10 Test-capped players, with another three on the bench. Several others in the matchday 23 clearly have the potential to feature for Ireland in the future.

Among the young guns is one man set for his Leinster debut in 20-year-old second row Joe McCarthy, who lines up alongside the very experienced Devin Toner.

There are high hopes for McCarthy, who is still part of Leinster’s academy, and their supporters will be watching with great interest amid some shuffling of the province’s lock stocks.

James Ryan and Ryan Baird are away with Ireland, of course, and they are still young locks at 25 and 22, respectively. Ryan is already a senior figure and proven performer, while Baird’s athleticism is unique.

Ross Molony is on the Leinster bench this evening and has been impressive in recent seasons, calling lineouts, bringing consistent physicality, and showcasing sharp handling skills too. He was surely in the mix for a place in the Ireland squad for this Six Nations.

jack-dunne Jack Dunne has been strongly linked with Exeter. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Leinster haven’t yet announced their contract renewals so it’s unclear if 35-year-old Toner will still be with the province next season. 23-year-old lock Jack Dunne is expected to join Exeter at the end of the current campaign, while Leinster academy lock Charlie Ryan has also been linked with the same English club.

Josh Murphy has played most of his rugby in the back row for Leinster but has been covered the second row impressively in the past fortnight. Murphy is also now expected to leave the province ahead of the 2022/23 season.

Along with McCarthy and Ryan, the Leinster academy also currently includes the well-regarded Brian Deeny, who played for the Ireland U20s in 2019 and 2020, so there is new talent looking to break through. Academy back row Alex Soroka has experience in the second row too.

Of course, Leinster are set to sign Jason Jenkins from Munster next summer, with the once-capped Springbok offering them a different profile among their lock options. The 26-year-old is a big, heavy, powerful presence. When Leinster got IRFU sign-off to recruit a non-Irish-qualified second row, there had been an expectation that the new addition would be a high-profile, proven world-class player but evidently the market was short of that marquee figure.

Jenkins has only managed one replacement appearance for Munster so far this season due to injuries, but the once-capped Springbok will hope to be fit for the end of the southern province’s campaign before he shifts to Leinster.

It remains to be seen if Leinster bring in any other players who cover the second row but current indications are that the province will cut the size of their senior squad ahead of next season due to the reduced number of games involved in the URC.

james-botham-comes-up-against-jonathan-davies James Botham returns for Cardiff tonight. Andy Watts / INPHO Andy Watts / INPHO / INPHO

All of that is going on in the background, but tonight Leinster will look to get the business done on the pitch in Cardiff, continuing the momentum they have built up in scoring 23 tries in their two European games this month.

Dai Young’s team are missing Josh Adams, Rhys Priestland, Willis Halaholo, Tomos Williams, Seb Davies, Ellis Jenkins and James Ratti due to their involvement with Wales, but they do welcome number eight James Botham back from injury.

As ever, the likes of Owen Lane and Rey Lee-Lo will be threats in the backline, while Lloyd Williams and Jarrod Evans are a fine halfback pairing, and the pack includes experienced heads like captain Josh Turnbull and Dmitri Arhip.

And yet, as ever in the URC, the expectation is that Leinster will win.


  • 15. Hallam Amos
  • 14. Owen Lane
  • 13. Rey Lee-Lo
  • 12. Ben Thomas
  • 11. Aled Summerhill
  • 10. Jarrod Evans
  • 9. Lloyd Williams
  • 1. Corey Domachowski
  • 2. Kirby Myhill
  • 3. Dmitri Arhip
  • 4.  Josh Turnbull (captain)
  • 5. Rory Thornton
  • 6. Shane Lewis-Hughes
  • 7. Will Boyde
  • 8. James Botham


  • 16. Efan Daniel
  • 17. Rhys Carré
  • 18. Dillon Lewis
  • 19. Teddy Williams
  • 20. Sam Moore
  • 21. Jamie Hill
  • 22. Max Llewellyn
  • 23. Garyn Smith


  • 15. Jimmy O’Brien
  • 14. Adam Byrne
  • 13. Jamie Osborne
  • 12. Ciarán Frawley
  • 11. Rory O’Loughlin
  • 10. Ross Byrne
  • 9. Luke McGrath (captain)
  • 1. Ed Byrne
  • 2. Seán Cronin
  • 3. Michael Ala’alatoa
  • 4. Devin Toner
  • 5. Joe McCarthy
  • 6. Rhys Ruddock
  • 7. Will Connors
  • 8. Scott Penny


  • 16. James Tracy
  • 17. Peter Dooley
  • 18. Vakh Abdaladze
  • 19. Ross Molony
  • 20. Max Deegan
  • 21. Nick McCarthy
  • 22. Harry Byrne
  • 23. Tommy O’Brien

Referee: Mike Adamson [SRU].

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