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Return of the Lions: Here’s the Pro12 team news for all four provinces

Leinster, Ulster, Munster and Connacht have all named their teams for this weekend’s Pro12 action.

BOD is back.
BOD is back.
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Updated 12.42

HAVING SUFFERED A 12-6 defeat in Glasgow last weekend, Leinster coach Matt O’Connor has named a strong team for tonight’s visit of the Cardiff Blues in the RaboDirect Pro12.

Brian O’Driscoll and Jamie Heaslip are included in the side for the first time this season, having completed a pre-season schedule that was delayed by their involvement with the Lions during the summer.

Both players are in the starting XV, with Heaslip named as captain. Fellow Lions Rob Kearney and Cian Healy are also in the team.

Ian Madigan returns to outhalf having started the loss to Glasgow at fullback. Ireland coach Joe Schmidt will be hoping that the 24-year-old can impress, especially amidst suggestions that Matt O’Connor would be happy to continue with Jimmy Gopperth at 10.

Fergus McFadden and Quinn Roux have recovered from injury to be included on the wing and at lock respectively. In the back row, Heaslip is joined by Rhys Ruddock at blindside, in for Kevin McLauglin, and Dominic Ryan at openside, who replaces the injured Shane Jennings.

Noel Reid comes in for Gordon D’Arcy in the centre, while Martin Moore starts at tight head prop in place of Mike Ross. The only players to retain their places in the starting team from last weekend are Isaac Boss and Dave Kearney. An exciting bench includes Jack McGrath, Jordi Murphy and Jimmy Gopperth.

Meanwhile, Ulster welcome back two Lions of their own for this evening’s clash against Treviso at Ravenhill. Tommy Bowe and Rory Best come straight into the starting team, with the latter captaining the side.

Craig Gilroy starts at fullback, with Jared Payne making a positional switch to outside centre. Paul Marshall comes into the team at scrumhalf, replacing Ian Porter.

Up front, Iain Henderson continues in the second row, while Robbie Diack is in at blindside flanker. That means a move to No. 8 for Roger Wilson.

imageBowe returns for Mark Anscombe’s men. ©INPHO/Presseye/Brian Little

Ireland international Bowe said he’s delighted to be back in the team: “It is great to be back. It has been a tough old pre-season with my wrist injury but I am delighted to be playing, delighted to be back fit again and looking forward to my first game at Ravenhill with the two new stands up.”

Munster welcome Paul O’Connell back into the fold for Saturday’s tie against the Dragons in Musgrave Park. The Ireland and Lions second row starts on the bench and is expected to feature prominently in the second half.

Felix Jones is also back in the mix and is named amongst the replacements alongside O’Connell. Loose head prop James Cronin gets another chance to impress from the start in a front row that also includes Damien Varley and John Ryan.

JJ Hanrahan is at outhalf, with Rob Penney continuing his policy of rotating out-halves. Keith Earls moves into the centre despite impressing on the wing in last weekend’s loss to Treviso, with Ivan Dineen partnering the Limerick man in midfield.

Connacht coach Pat Lam has made four changes to his team after the disappointing home loss to Ulster last weekend. Sligo native Sean Henry replaces the injured Jason Harris-Wright at hooker, while Andrew Browne starts at blindside flanker having featured twice in the second row already this season.

At outhalf, Craig Ronaldson makes his first professional start after appearing off the bench in all three of Connacht’s Pro12 fixtures so far. The 23-year-old joined from AIL side Lansdowne during the summer. South African Danie Poolman starts on the right wing, with Fionn Carr dropping to the bench.

Connacht play the Ospreys at the Sportsground tomorrow.

Leinster (v Cardiff Blues): Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Brian O’Driscoll, Noel Reid, Dave Kearney, Ian Madigan, Isaac Boss; Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Martin Moore; Devin Toner, Quinn Roux, Rhys Ruddock, Dominic Ryan, Jamie Heaslip (Capt.)

Replacements: Aaron Dundon, Jack McGrath, Mike Ross, Tom Denton, Jordi Murphy, John Cooney, Jimmy Gopperth, Brendan Macken.

Ulster (v Treviso): Craig Gilroy; Tommy Bowe, Jared Payne, Luke Marshall, Michael Allen, Paddy Jackson, Paul Marshall; Tom Court, Rory Best (Capt.), Ricky Lutton; Iain Henderson, Dan Tuohy, Robbie Diack, Chris Henry, Roger Wilson.

Replacements: Rob Herring, Callum Black, Bronson Ross, Lewis Stevenson, Nick Williams, Michael Heaney, James McKinney, Darren Cave.

Munster (v Dragons): Johne Murphy; Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Ivan Dineen, Simon Zebo; JJ Hanrahan, Cathal Sheridan; James Cronin, Damien Varley, John Ryan; Donncha O’Callaghan, Dave Foley; Peter O’Mahony (Capt.), Sean Dougall, Paddy Butler.

Replacements: Mike Sherry, David Kilcoyne, Stephen Archer, Paul O’Connell, CJ Stander, Duncan Williams, Ian Keatley, Felix Jones.

Connacht (v Ospreys): Gavin Duffy; Danie Poolman, Robbie Henshaw, Eoin Griffin, Matt Healy, Craig Ronaldson, Kieran Marmion; Brett Wilkinson, Sean Henry, Nathan White; Michael Swift, Craig Clarke, Andrew Browne, Jake Heenan, John Muldoon.

Replacements: James Rael, Rodney Ah You, Ronan Loughney, Aly Muldowney, Geroge Naoupu, Paul O’Donohoe, Dan Parks, Fionn Carr.

– Originally published 12.15 Thursday

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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