Sean O’Brien is finally set to make his London Irish debut ten months after his last appearance on a rugby pitch. 

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The back row last played when chosen for Leinster to start in their Heineken Champions Cup final defeat to Saracens last May in Newcastle. 

He then went for hip surgery which ruled him out of Ireland’s World Cup campaign in Japan and left him recovering on the sidelines at his new Premiership club.  

The two-time British and Irish Lions tourist is one of three changes from the London Irish side that lost at home to Wasps last weekend, Sekope Kepu and Ben Donnell also coming into the starting line-up.

Harry Elrington, Motu Matu’u and Sekope Kepu start in the front row with Adam Coleman alongside captain Franco van der Merwe. O’Brien and Ben Donnell are at blindside and openside flanker respectively with Fiji international Albert Tuisue at No8.

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Ben Meehan and Stephen Myler are the half-back pairing with Terrence Hepetema and Curtis Rona in the midfield. An all-academy back three of Ollie Hassell-Collins, Ben Loader and Tom Parton start together.

London Irish boss Declan Kidney is aware of the task facing his squad. “Sale are one of the form sides in the Gallagher Premiership having won four of their five Premiership matches since the turn of the year.

“They are a formidable opponent at home, but the squad have worked hard and are relishing the challenge.”

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LONDON IRISH (vs Sale, Friday)

15 Tom Parton, 14 Ben Loader, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Terrence Hepetema, 11 Ollie Hassell Collins, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Ben Meehan, 1 Harry Elrington, 2 Motu Matu’u, 3 Sekope Kepu, 4 Franco van der Merwe (capt), 5 Adam Coleman, 6 Seán O’Brien, 7 Ben Donnell 8 Albert Tuisue. Reps: 16 Saia Fainga’a, 17 Will Goodrick-Clarke, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Steve Mafi, 20 Matt Rogerson, 21 Blair Cowan, 22 Nick Phipps, 23 Bryce Campbell.

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