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Dublin: 12 °C Tuesday 26 March, 2019
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Kearney and McGrath start for Leinster as Cullen's men return to Pro14 action

James Lowe is also back in the province’s starting XV for the visit of Scarlets.

ROB KEARNEY AND Jack McGrath will get valuable match minutes under their belt ahead of the Six Nations, after the pair were named in Leinster’s much-changed starting XV for tomorrow’s clash against Scarlets.

Leo Cullen has made wholesale changes to his side for Friday night’s Guinness Pro14 encounter against the Welsh region at the RDS [KO 7.35pm, TG4/eir Sport], with seven academy players included in the matchday 23.

Rob Kearney and Jack McGrath during the pitch inspection Kearney and McGrath start for Leinster. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Both Kearney and McGrath didn’t travel with the rest of the Ireland squad to Portugal this week as they continue their respective returns from injury, and the pair have a chance to prove their fitness to Joe Schmidt.

Kearney is named to start at fullback, where he will captain the side from, after overcoming a leg issue which sidelined him for the Heineken Champions Cup wins over Toulouse and Wasps, while McGrath starts his second successive game following hip surgery.

Joining Kearney in the back three are Barry Daly and James Lowe, who also returns to the starting XV after serving his two-match suspension for the red card he picked up against Munster at Thomond Park last month.

In the centre, Conor O’Brien gets another chance to continue his impressive form alongside Rory O’Loughlin, while Ciaran Frawley is named at out-half with Ross Byrne unavailable through injury.

After making his European debut off the bench last weekend, academy scrum-half Hugh O’Sullivan makes his first senior start, as Jamison Gibson-Park is held in reserve. 

In the pack, there is an all-international front row as McGrath, James Tracy and Michael Bent all start, while Ross Molony and Mick Kearney are paired together in the engine room.

There is a youthful and exciting look to Leinster’s back row unit with Max Deegan shifting to blindside flanker to accommodate Caelan Doris at number eight, while 19-year-old Scott Penny — named in Ireland’s U20 Six Nations squad — will make his fourth appearance of a breakthrough season. 

Jack Dunne Jack Dunne is in line for his Leinster debut. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

On the bench, academy second row Jack Dunne is in line for a senior debut and should he be introduced against Scarlets, will become the province’s 1,276th player. 

Leinster are bidding to extend their 19-point lead at the top of Conference B when they return to Pro14 action tomorrow in what is a repeat of last year’s championship final at the Aviva Stadium. 

Wayne Pivac is also without his Welsh internationals for the visit to Dublin, but second row Jake Ball is included as he looks to build up his match fitness ahead of the Six Nations.

Leinster:

15. Rob Kearney (captain)
14. Barry Daly
13. Rory O’Loughlin 
12. Conor O’Brien
11. James Lowe 
10. Ciarán Frawley
9. Hugh O’Sullivan

1. Jack McGrath 
2. James Tracy 
3. Michael Bent 
4. Ross Molony 
5. Mick Kearney 
6. Max Deegan
7. Scott Penny 
8. Caelan Doris.

Replacements:

16. Bryan Byrne
17. Ed Byrne
18. Vakh Abdaladze
19. Jack Dunne
20. Oisín Dowling
21. Jamison Gibson-Park
22. Noel Reid
23. Jimmy O’Brien.

Scarlets:

15. Johnny McNicholl
14. Ioan Nicholas
13. Kieron Fonotia
12. Steff Hughes (captain)
11. Paul Asquith
10. Dan Jones
9. Kieran Hardy

1. Phil Price
2. Marc Jones
3. Werner Kruger
4. Jake Ball
5. David Bulbring
6. Tom Price
7. Dan Davis
8. Josh Macleod.

Replacements:

16. Dafydd Hughes
17. Dylan Evans
18. Simon Gardiner
19. Josh Helps
20. Ed Kennedy
21. Jon Evans
22. Morgan Williams
23. Tom Prydie.

Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy). 

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About the author:

Ryan Bailey

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