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'Query is do you take Caelan Doris out of his best position at No8?'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Legendary Leinster midfielder Brian O’Driscoll has named the team he wants Leo Cullen to select for this Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup final versus La Rochelle in Dublin. The Irish province qualified for their latest European decider with their April 29 home semi-final success versus Toulouse.

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They have since played two league matches with a much-reshuffled line-up. Cullen made nine changes for the URC quarter-final versus the Sharks and then made a further seven changes from that last-eight match when announcing his XV to take on Munster in the semi-final.

Having lost that all-Irish fixture to a late Jack Crowley drop-goal, Leinster now go into their European final with a league defeat feeding into their European preparations.

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If O’Driscoll had a say in who should play against La Rochelle, he would go with 13 of the same 15 players that started the EPCR victory versus Toulouse – including the fit-again duo James Lowe and Robbie Henshaw at the expense of Jordan Larmour and Charlie Ngatai.

“You have got a full deck to choose from,” he enthused to RugbyPass after it emerged that Lowe and Henshaw were up for selection for the showpiece decider.

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Lowe hasn’t played since the April 7 quarter-final win over Leicester, but he was part of the extended matchday squad last week against Munster and was expected to “train as normal” this week. Henshaw, meanwhile, played his first match last Saturday since his injury in that same Tigers game and was reported to have “no issues” after that return.

“The backline picks itself, doesn’t it? Hopefully, James Lowe is back fit, (Hugo) Keenan is back in, and Jimmy O’Brien on the wing with Garry (Ringrose) and Robbie in the centre, albeit with Charlie Ngatai playing well in the semi-final. And then Ross (Byrne) and (Jamison) Gibson-Park. So that is the backline – that picks itself,” reckoned O’Driscoll.

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“Front row picks itself with (Dan) Sheehan in the middle. Ross Molony has earned the starting berth in the second row with James Ryan, and then the query is do you take Caelan Doris out of his best position at No8 to bring on some of your most destructive ball carriers which you always need against physical teams?

“In Jack Conan, I think the answer is probably yes there versus playing Ryan Baird at six and Caelan at eight. So for me, it will be Caelan, Josh (van der Flier) and Conan in the back row. It’s a team that picks itself at this stage considering the few injuries (to Johnny Sexton etc).”

If that is the XV Cullen does announce, it would show just two changes from last year’s lost final to La Rochelle in Marseille, Byrne in for the injured Sexton at No10 and Sheehan for Ronan Kelleher at hooker.

“We are always talking about where did Leinster go wrong last year and whatnot. We have picked a load of areas, but they lost by three points with a converted try when the clock went red. Let’s put everything in perspective.”

  • BT Sport is home of the Heineken Champions Cup. Watch this year’s final between Leinster and La Rochelle from 4pm, Saturday, May 20, live and exclusive on BT Sport 2. Visit btsport.com/rugby
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Comments

1 Comment
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Rob 400 days ago

While I like and admire Conan as a player there’s a double whammy of playing him where not only are you taking one of the form players in rugby and playing him out of position, you’re also relegating one of the most talented and athletic players in Ireland, Ryan Baird, to the bench. I’d argue that Baird offers consistent pressure and athleticism whereas Conan has operated very well in that impact sub roll over the season. However, it’s hard to argue that either of them don’t deserve it when the team is selected.

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