Freshly crowned Guinness PRO14 champions Leinster have made four changes to their XV following last Saturday’s league final win, promoting James Lowe, Johnny Sexton, Tadhg Furlong and Ryan Baird to their starting side that will face Toulon in the Heineken Champions Cup round of 16.
All four were on the RDS bench for last weekend’s comfortable 16-6 win over Munster and while there was a doubt over Sexton’s availability after he took a bang to the nose and required a HIA, the skipper has been picked at out-half for a match where Leinster will look to make amends for last September’s European knockout stage slip-up.
Crowned PRO14 champions for the delayed 2019/20 season with a win over Ulster, the lack of intensity in that league decider was blamed for leaving Leinster undercooked when they were picked off the following week by Saracens in the Champions Cup quarter-finals.
Now they find themselves in a similar situation, taking on stellar European opposition in the guise of Toulon the week after their latest PRO14 title success. Dave Kearney, Ross Byrne, Andrew Porter and Scott Fardy all drop to the bench from the starting XV but Jamison Gibson-Park is marked absent from the bench after being chosen there last week.
Following the win over Munster, Leinster boss Leo Cullen said: “Winning can make you a little bit week, soft, whatever it is, and we need to ensure that doesn’t happen for us next week… we started off the season winning the PRO14 and then we lost the following week to Saracens. It’s important that we don’t make that same mistake again.
Familiar decade-old heartache for Munster, repetitive joy for Leinster. No wonder Leo Cullen sounded off about red-eyed pundits who had read the room completely wrong#LEIvMUN #PRO14https://t.co/j59Q3avugI
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 27, 2021
“Saracens came to the Aviva that day with a good plan but maybe we were a little off that day. It’s important that we’re not a little bit off when we turn up here next Friday. It’s that balance now, enjoy the moment here for a few hours, short turnaround and turn the page into Toulon because it is a massive challenge against a star-studded squad.”
LEINSTER: 15. Hugo Keenan; 14. Jordan Larmour, 13. Rory O’Loughlin, 12. Robbie Henshaw, 11. James Lowe; 10. Johnny Sexton (capt), 9. Luke McGrath; 1. Cian Healy, 2. Ronan Kelleher, 3. Tadhg Furlong, 4. Devin Toner, 5. Ryan Baird, 6. Rhys Ruddock, 7. Josh van der Flier, 8. Jack Conan. Rep: 16. James Tracy, 17. Ed Byrne, 18. Andrew Porter, 19. Ross Molony, 20. Scott Fardy, 21. Hugh O’Sullivan, 22. Ross Byrne, 23. Dave Kearney.
TOULON: 15. Gervais Cordin; 14. Masivesi Dakuwaqa, 13. Rudi Wulf, 12. Julien Heriteau, 11. Gabin Villiere; 10. Duncan Paia’aua, 9. Baptiste Serin (capt); 1. Jean-Baptiste Gros, 2. Christopher Tolofua, 3. Beka Gigashvili, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 5. Romain Taofifenua, 6. Swan Rebbadj, 7. Charles Ollivon, 8. Sergio Parisse. Reps: 16. Bastien Soury, 17. Sebastien Taofifenua, 18. Emerick Setiano, 19. Raphael Lakafia, 20. Julien Ory, 21. Frederick du Plessis, 22. Anthony Meric, 23. Simon Moretti.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 1, 2021
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