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Covid-19 hit Leinster opt for 6-2 split and rookie faces in backline

By Ian Cameron
Leinster pair Dan Leavy and James Ryan. (Getty)

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Covid-19 hit Leinster have opted for a 6-2 split on the bench and some rookie faces in the backline as they face the daunting task of Montpellier at the GGL Stadium tomorrow.

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Leinster said on Tuesday that “an additional number of senior players” have tested positive for Covid-19 ahead of Friday’s scheduled Heineken Champions Cup game.

It comes after Leinster postponed training on Monday prior to their latest PCR testing results. The Irish province said last week that three senior players and one member of staff had tested positive for Covid-19.

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Leo Cullen’s squad may see five European debuts, with academy product Jamie Osborne set to make his right away. The Naas RFC player made his competitive debut last season while still in the sub-academy.

Utility back Ciarán Frawley partners 20-year-old Osborne, with Jamison Gibson-Park and Ross Byrne the half back pairing.

Nine cap Jimmy O’Brien begins at fullback, alongside James Lowe and Adam Byrne on the wings. It will be Byrne’s first start in Europe since January 2019.

The pack is significantly more heavyweight, with Cian Healy, Rónan Kelleher and Andrew Porter in the front row selected with Ryan Baird and James Ryan behind them.

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Max Deegan, Dan Leavy and Jack Conan are named in the back row, Conan making his return from a quad injury. Fellow Ireland international Leavy makes his first European start in just over three years.

Cullen has named a 6-2 split on the bench with Vakh Abdaladze, Jack Dunne, academy scrumhalf Cormac Foley and Scott Penny all in line to play their first games in the Heineken Champions Cup.

LEINSTER RUGBY:
15. Jimmy O’Brien
14. Adam Byrne
13. Jamie Osborne
12. Ciarán Frawley
11. James Lowe
10. Ross Byrne
9. Jamison Gibson-Park
1. Cian Healy
2. Rónan Kelleher
3. Andrew Porter
4. Ryan Baird
5. James Ryan CAPTAIN
6. Max Deegan
7. Dan Leavy
8. Jack Conan

REPLACEMENTS:
16. Dan Sheehan
17. Ed Byrne
18. Vakh Abdaladze
19. Devin Toner
20. Jack Dunne
21. Cormac Foley
22. Tommy O’Brien
23. Scott Penny

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Additional reporting PA

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