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Lingering concern over McGrath could change Leinster selection picture

Jamison Gibson-Park may be required to provide experienced cover at scrum-half.

THE RETURN OF Luke McGrath had meant that James Lowe was expected to come back onto the left wing for Leinster’s Champions Cup final clash with Racing 92 but lingering concerns over the scrum-half may change the selection picture.

While McGrath is still expected to start in the nine shirt for Leinster, it appears the province still have some nagging doubts over whether he will be fit enough to complete the majority of the game.

pjimage One of James Lowe and Jamison Gibson-Park is set to miss out.

McGrath is set to return from an ankle injury and with concerns about whether it will hold up for 80 minutes against a physical Racing outfit, Leinster could opt to include the more experienced Jamison Gibson-Park on the bench ahead of Nick McCarthy.

Gibson-Park deputised for McGrath in the semi-final victory over the Scarlets, while also impressing in a group-stage start away to Montpellier, and would be seen as the safer bench option in the event that McGrath was reinjured early against Racing.

If Gibson-Park is to be included, that would mean Lowe missing out on the matchday squad – as he did for the semi-final on account of EPCR’s limit of two ‘non-European players’.

Scott Fardy is set to continue at blindside flanker in an unchanged Leinster pack, with Rhys Ruddock and Jack Conan providing cover from the bench.

If Lowe is not included, then Jordan Larmour would likely come into Leinster’s starting team, with Isa Nacewa continuing on the left wing, where he featured against the Scarlets.

With Leinster set to officially name their matchday 23 at midday on Friday, it will be intriguing to see which way their selection calls go.

Missing out on the Champions Cup final altogether would be a major blow for either of Lowe and Gibson-Park.

Racing 92’s Teddy Iribaren Teddy Iribaren is set to take over at nine for Racing. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Meanwhile, Racing are expected to name a settled matchday 23 on Friday, with Teddy Iribaren set to replace the injured Maxime Machenaud at scrum-half.

There is an important call to make at tighthead between the heavyweight Ben Tameifuna and Sedate Gomes Sa, while the experienced Census Johnston returned from a four-week ban last weekend in the Top 14.

Argentinian wing Juan Imhoff, who was omitted for the Champions Cup quarter-final and semi-final wins over Clermont and Munster, has been in superb try-scoring form over the past fortnight and has put major pressure on Marc Andreu on the left wing.

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Murray Kinsella

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