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Dublin: 4 °C Sunday 19 January, 2020

Pro12: Leinster and Connacht name teams for Friday night clash

Dan Parks will make his debut for Eric Elwood’s men against a Blues side containing Rob Kearney and Gordon D’Arcy.

Rob Kearney tackles Dan Parks in April 2012.
Rob Kearney tackles Dan Parks in April 2012.
Image: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

LEINSTER’S ROB KEARNEY and Dan Parks of Connacht will make their first league starts of the season when the two sides meet at the Sportsground on Friday.

Both team announced their match-day squads for the RaboDirect Pro12 encounter, with Joe Schmidt naming four Irish internationals in his starting XV.

Kearney, last season’s European Player of the Year, returns at full-back in a Leinster backline that includes Fergus McFadden and Isa Nacewa on the wings, John Cooney and Ian Madigan as the half-back pairing, and Gordon D’Arcy partnering Brendan Macken in the centre.

Tom Denton continues in the second row and is partnered this week by South African Quinn Roux.

Eric Elwood’s squad has been hit by a number of injuries to important players but he retains experience in the form of Michael Swift, Johnny O’Connor and Adrian Flavin.

Young scrum-half Kieran Marmion is at nine and will play alongside Scottish international Parks, who featured for Cardiff Blues last season.

The last time Kearney and Parks faced each other was the Heineken Cup quarter-final at the Aviva Stadium in April, which Leinster won comfortably.

Leinster: Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Brendan Macken, Gordon D’Arcy, Isa Nacewa; Ian Madigan, John Cooney; Heinke van der Merwe, Thomas Sexton, Jamie Hagan; Quinn Roux, Tom Denton; Ben Marshall, Shane Jennings (captain), Leo Auva’a.

Replacements: Sean Cronin, Cian Healy, Mike Ross, Devin Toner, Jordi Murphy, Luke McGrath, Noel Reid, Fionn Carr.

Leinster coach Joe Schmidt has top-loaded his bench with three proven internationals but will be hoping his front-row can weather the expected Connacht storm for the bulk of an hour.

Connacht: Robbie Henshaw; Tiernan O’Halloran, Eoin Griffin, Dave McSharry, Fetu’u Vainikolo; Dan Parks, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Adrian Flavin, Nathan White (captain); Michael Swift, Mike McCarthy; Eoin McKeon, Johnny O’Connor, George Naoupu.

Replacements: Jason Harris-Wright, Brett Wilkinson, Ronan Loughney, Dave Gannon, Willie Faloon, Dave Moore, Miah Nikora, Mata Fifita.

O’Halloran and Vainikolo return to add some space to the wings. Ronan Loughney, the only Connacht player that trained with Ireland midweek, will be itching for some meaningful game time against quality opposition.

Connacht v Leinster kicks off at 8pm and will be screened live on TG4.

Read: Ian Humphreys: If Ireland don’t need Tomás O’Leary they are a very lucky team

Read: Engage: Paul O’Connell says inconsistent Ireland have not regressed since Grand Slam

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Patrick McCarry

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