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Lowe back as Leinster, La Rochelle name Champions Cup final teams

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Leinster and La Rochelle have named their teams for Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup final in Dublin, the Irish province making two changes from their semi-final win over Toulouse and the defending champions two as well after their victory over Exeter.

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It was April 29 when Leinster saw off Toulouse 41-22 minus the services of James Lowe and Robbie Henshaw, the duo injured in their quarter-final win over Leicester.

Lowe hasn’t played since that April 7 match but he has timed his return to fitness for the final to perfection. He has been named on the left wing with Jimmy O’Brien changing to the right and Jordan Larmour dropping out the matchday 23.

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James Lowe | Rugby Roots

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James Lowe | Rugby Roots

Henhsaw, meanwhile, made his return to playing in last weekend’s UIRC semi-final loss to Munster. That comeback was in a midfield partnership with Charlie Ngatai, who deputised for him against Toulouse.

The New Zealander now drops to the bench, enabling Henshaw to resume his partnership with Garry Ringrose. The remainder of the Leinster XV is unchanged from the semi-final.

La Rochelle have mirrored the same number of Leinster switches by making just two alterations from their semi-final win over Exeter 47-28 in Bordeaux on April 30.

Ultan Dillane, their signing this season from Connacht, has been named on the bench with his place as the starting blindside going to Paul Boudehent. In the backs, Jonathan Danty is chosen at inside centre with Jules Favre benched.

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Of great interest, given that this fixture was only won last season by La Rochelle with a late converted try in Marseille, is that the French have named a bench with a six/two forwards/back split whereas Leinster have chosen a five/three split. Both teams went with the same splits last season.

The Leinster XV shows two changes from 12 months ago, Ross Byrne and Dan Sheehan taking the starting spots that the injured Johnny Sexton and current sub Ronan Kelleher had.

There are seven changes to this year’s La Rochelle final XV compared to 2022, three in the backline with UJ Seuteni, Antoine Hastoy and Tawera Kerr-Barlow respectively starting in place of Toulon duo Jeremy Sinzelle and Ihaia West, and this Saturday’s No22 Thomas Berjon.

In the pack, the French team’s differences from last year are Reda Wardi, Romain Sazy, Boudehent and Levani Botia who take over from Toulon’s Dany Priso, sub Thomas Lavault, the retired Wiaan Liebenberg and Matthias Haddad.

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LEINSTER: 15. Hugo Keenan; 14. Jimmy O’Brien, 13. Garry Ringrose, 12. Robbie Henshaw, 11. James Lowe; 10. Ross Byrne, 9. Jamison Gibson-Park; 1. Andrew Porter, 2. Dan Sheehan, 3. Tadhg Furlong, 4. Ross Molony, 5. James Ryan (capt), 6. Caelan Doris, 7. Josh van der Flier, 8. Jack Conan. Reps: 16. Ronan Kelleher, 17. Cian Healy, 18. Michael Ala’alatoa, 19. Jason Jenkins, 20. Ryan Baird, 21. Luke McGrath, 22. Ciaran Frawley, 23. Charlie Ngatai.

LA ROCHELLE: 15. Brice Dulin; 14. Dillyn Leyds, 13. UJ Seuteni, 12. Jonathan Danty, 11. Raymond Rhule; 10. Antoine Hastoy, 9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow; 1. Reda Wardi, 2. Pierre Bourgarit, 3. Uini Atonio, 4. Romain Sazy, 5. Will Skelton, 6. Paul Boudehent, 7. Levani Botia, 8. Gregory Alldritt (capt). Reps: 16. Quentin Lespiaucq Brettes, 17. Joel Sclavi, 18. Georges Henri Colombe, 19. Thomas Lavault, 20. Remi Bourdeau, 21. Ultan Dillane, 22. Thomas Berjon, 23. Jules Favre.

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