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Leinster, Munster and Ulster announce teams for RaboDirect openers

The competition starts on Friday, with the Irish provinces including a number of experienced players in their line-ups.

Munster are the current holders of the trophy.
Munster are the current holders of the trophy.

LEINSTER, MUNSTER AND Ulster have announced their starting line-ups for their opening RaboDirect PRO12 matches of their respective games against Ospreys, London Irish and Glasgow this Friday.

For Leinster, Kevin McLaughlin makes his 50th appearance in the back-row for the province, while Rhys Ruddock captains the side.

John Cooney and Mat Berquist make their debuts at 9 and 10 respectively, while Luke Fitzgerald and Eoin O’Malley start at centre.

Isa Nacewa starts at full-back, while David Kearney and Fionn Carr are on the wings.

In the Munster side, John Murphy returns from injury to take his place at full-back, with James Coughlan also passed fit to play at number 8.

In addition, Peter Stringer replaces Duncan Williams at scrum-half, while John Hayes and Tomas O’Leary start on the bench.

For Ulster, number 8 Chris Henry is named as captain, while Lewis Stevenson makes his first competitive start for the province.

Jerry Cronin, Paddy McAllister and Andi Kyriacou start in the front row, and Ian Whitten begins on the left wing instead of his usual position at centre.

Meanwhile, Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin was optimistic that they could build on their impressive performance against Harlequins last week, telling reporters:

“Against Harlequins we set our stall out, we wanted to show our fans what they can expect from us at Ravenhill this season. The key thing is that we build on what we did last weekend. We’re very pleased with the tempo that we played at; we’re pleased with the way that we were trying to play,” he said.

Munster ultimately won the competition last year, beating Leinster 19-9 in the final.

MUNSTER: J Murphy; D Howlett, D Barnes, L Mafi, D Hurley; I Keatley, P Stringer; M Horan, M Shery, S Archer; B Holland, M O’Driscoll; P O’Mahony, N Ronan, J Coughlan. REPLACEMENTS: D Varley, W Du Preez, J Hayes, D Foley, T O’Donnell, T O’Leary, S Deasy, S Zebo.

LEINSTER:I Nacewa; F Carr, E O’Malley, L Fitzgerald, D Kearney; M Berquist, J Cooney; H van der Merwe, R Strauss, J Hagan; D Browne, D Toner; K McLaughlin, D Ryan, R Ruddock. REPLACEMENTS: A Dundon, J McGrath, J O’Connell, M Flanagan, L Auva’a, C Willis, I Madigan, B Macken.

ULSTER:A D’Arcy; C Gilroy, D Cave, N Spence, I Whitten; I Humphreys, P Marshall; P McAllister, A Kyriacou, J Cronin, L Stevenson, D Tuohy, P Wannenburg, W Faloon, C Henry. REPLACEMENTS: N Brady, C Carey, A Macklin, N McComb, R Diack, I Porter, P Jackson, P Nelson.

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Paul Fennessy

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