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Leinster change three from the XV that dethroned European champions Exeter

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Getty Images)

Leinster have made three changes to their semi-final XV at La Rochelle from the team that dethroned defending Heineken Champions Cup champions Exeter in the quarter-finals three weeks ago. Fit-again Garry Ringrose will resume his midfield partnership with Robbie Henshaw, with the deputising Rory O’Loughlin dropping to the bench. 

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Ross Byrne, who came on as a Sandy Park replacement for Johnny Sexton, has been chosen as the starting out-half while the sole change to the pack that led the charge in Leinster recovering from an early 14-point deficit is the inclusion of fit-again James Ryan for the benched Scott Fardy. 

Ryan made his return to action in last weekend’s Rainbow Cup defeat to Munster after he had picked up a concussion in Ireland’s March 14 Guinness Six Nations win over Scotland. 

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With Sexton still dealing with his own concussive symptoms and Jamison Gibson-Park still hamstrung, the Leinster bench in France on Sunday will have a look of inexperience as Rowan Osborne and Ciaran Frawley are backing up starting half-back duo, Luke McGrath and Byrne. 

Scrum-half Osbourne has only ever featured nine times for the Irish club, coming off the bench in seven of his nine PRO14 appearances, while Frawley has just two Champions Cup runs to his name from Leinster games last December. La Rochelle, meanwhile, have made one change from their quarter-final win over Sale, Wiaan Liebenberg coming in at openside for Kevin Gourdon who drops to the bench.

LA ROCHELLE: 15. Brice Dulin; 14. Dillyn Leyds, 13. Geoffrey Doumayrou, 12. Levani Botia, 11. Raymond Rhule; 10. Ihaia West, 9. Tawera Kerr Barlow; 1. Reda Wardi, 2. Pierre Bourgarit, 3. Uini Atonio, 4. Romain Sazy (capt), 5. Will Skelton, 6. Gregory Alldritt, 7. Wiaan Liebenberg, 8. Victor Vito. Reps: 16. Facundo Bosch, 17. Dany Priso, 18. Arthur Joly, 19. Thomas Lavault, 20. Kevin Gourdon, 21. Arthur Retiere, 22. Jules Plisson, 23. Pierre Aguillon.

LEINSTER: 15. Hugo Keenan; 14. Jordan Larmour, 13. Robbie Henshaw, 12. Garry Ringrose, 11. James Lowe; 10. Ross Byrne, 9. Luke McGrath (capt); 1. Cian Healy, 2. Ronan Kelleher, 3. Tadhg Furlong, 4. Devin Toner, 5. James Ryan, 6. Rhys Ruddock, 7. Josh van der Flier, 8. Jack Conan. Reps: 16. James Tracy, 17. Ed Byrne, 18. Andrew Porter, 19. Scott Fardy, 20. Ryan Baird, 21. Rowan Osborne, 22. Ciaran Frawley, 23. Rory O’Loughlin.

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Flankly 10 hours ago
Resilient Irish will test Springboks despite provincial setbacks

The Bok kryptonite is complacency. How did they lose to Japan in 2015, or to Italy in 2016? There are plenty of less dramatic examples. They often boil down to the Boks dialing back their focus and intensity, presuming they can win with less than 100% commitment. This can be true of most teams, but there is a reason that the Boks are prone to it. It boils down to the Bok game plan being predicated on intensity. The game plan works because of the relentless and suffocating pressure that they apply. They don’t allow the opponent to control the game, and they pounce on any mistake. It works fantastically, but it is extremely demanding on the Bok players to pull it off. And the problem is that it stops working if you execute at anything less than full throttle. Complacency kills the Boks because it can lead to them playing at 97% and getting embarrassed. So the Bulls/Leinster result is dangerous. It’s exactly what is needed to introduce that hint of over-confidence. Rassie needs to remind the team of the RWC pool game, and of the fact that Ireland have won 8 of the 12 games between the teams in the last 20 years. And of course the Leinster result also means that Ireland have a point to prove. Comments like “a club team beating a test team” will be pasted on the changing room walls. They will be out to prove that the result of the RWC game truly reflects the pecking order between the teams. The Boks can win these games, but, as always, they need to avoid the kryptonite.

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