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Dublin: 11°C Wednesday 21 October 2020
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Leinster back Ross Molony to muscle up after loss of Toner and Nacewa

Rob Kearney comes into the team in the 15 shirt as the Leinster captain misses out.

Murray Kinsella reports from Murrayfield

LEO CULLEN IS confident Rob Kearney and Ross Molony will prove to be more-than-capable replacements for Isa Nacewa and Devin Toner in tomorrow’s Guinness Pro12 final against Connacht in Murrayfield [KO 5.30pm].

Leinster’s arrival in Edinburgh this afternoon was delayed by well over an hour due to a tardy flight, with Connacht having opted to fly in yesterday evening, but the eastern province feel ready to earn a first trophy since their last Pro12 title in 2014.

Molony and Kearney may end up playing important roles in deciding whether or not that happens.

Leinster’s Ross Molony Molony will play an important role for Leinster tomorrow. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Captain Nacewa was ruled out of tomorrow’s clash with Connacht due to the aggravation of an old arm injury in last weekend’s semi-final win over Ulster, while second row Toner has suffered a family bereavement.

Kearney is a highly-experienced replacement at fullback for Nacewa, while 22-year-old Molony has shown his ability this season. The former St. Michael’s student now has the demanding task of running Leinster’s lineout in the Pro12 final, but Cullen has faith.

“Isa has been a great leader for the team all year and he’s provided that stable presence as well,” said Cullen in Murrayfield this evening.

“Devin has had a family bereavement so he wasn’t able to travel with us today. Dev is someone who’s one of the key leaders in the team.

“I think we’re very fortunate in the fact that we’ve got Ross to step into the second row and Rob comes in, who has got reasonable experience at the highest level. We’re fortunate that we’ve got two very able replacements.

“Even when we played against Treviso in our last regular game of the Pro12 season and Dev had actually pulled out of that game sick, Ross stepped in pretty seamlessly. He would have run there during the week as well, so he’s good to go.

“I don’t think it has a massive effect. I think Ross calls really well, he leads the lineout well and in some pretty big games this season he has performed at a really high level.”

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Jamie Heaslip, who will lead Leinster in Nacewa’s enforced absence, echoed Cullen’s sentiment and stressed that the fullback and Toner “still had a big role for us this week” as Leinster prepared for the final.

Jamie Heaslip and Leo Cullen Heaslip and Cullen at Murrayfield this afternoon. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Having missed out on the Pro12 play-offs last season after a fifth-placed finish in the league table, Leinster feel they’re back where they belong and their knock-out mindset was deeply apparent last weekend as they brushed off the challenge of Ulster.

“I think we realised last year how hard it is to get into the knock-out stages of the competition,” said Heaslip. “We’re going up against a side who, from the outset, were the pacemakers for the league. We realise how big a challenge it’s going to be.

“We definitely didn’t like not being involved come the knock-out stages last year. We had to take our slice of humble pie and sit at home and watch the games and learn from our mistakes. Hopefully, we’ve learned from last year and we’re constantly trying to grow.

“Tomorrow is a massive test for this group of players.”

Connacht are riding the crest of a wave coming into tomorrow’s final and bring a wide range of attacking threats to Murrayfield but Heaslip says Leinster understand that if they can ensure their own intensity and accuracy levels are high, they’ll be in a good place.

“We can only worry about ourselves,” said Heaslip. “We spent a lot of time looking at Connacht, we played them twice, we know the players very well. I’ve trained and played with some of them.

“They have a lot of respect from us but we have to revert back on ourselves and worry about what we can bring to the game. We need to try and control the controllables, I always say it, but that’s what you’ve got to fall back on.”

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Murray Kinsella

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