Aspiring Ireland out-half Ross Byrne has been handed an unusual starting role for Leinster in Friday night’s Guinness PRO14 clash with Ulster, a run at outside centre after Johnny Sexton was declared fit to start at No10.
Sexton was withdrawn during the first half of last weekend’s defeat at home to Connacht, a situation that allowed visiting out-half Jack Carty go on to dominate and end Leinster’s long unbeaten streak in the league.
Byrne wasn’t available for that match, leaving Leinster short of No10 cover, but he now returns to line-up in the very different position of midfield with fit-again younger brother Harry providing the bench back-up to Sexton.
Byrne has been hoping to polish his credentials as an option for Ireland’s Andy Farrell having started the Autumn Nations Cup game away to England and featuring off the bench in later games against Georgia and Scotland.
However, his shift to 13 for his club for the first time is a surprise and he will go in against Ulster featuring in a midfield combination alongside Robbie Henshaw as champions Leinster look to regain momentum and close the gap on the PRO14 table to conference leaders Ulster.
What a game ?
? A bonus-point win
? First victory in Dublin since 2002@Connachtrugby record a win against @LeinsterRugby who face their first defeat since April 2019 ? #GuinnessPRO14 highlights ? pic.twitter.com/C3rWBI7rp5
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) January 2, 2021
Sexton and Dave Kearney are the only two repeat starters from last weekend as Leinster make 13 changes, including the return of fit-again Jordan Larmour, who missed Ireland’s entire autumn block of matches through injury.
Ulster, meanwhile, have selected a team showing five changes following their win over Munster. It includes a return to the starting line-up for Marcell Coetzee, who will be joining the Bulls at the end of the campaign.
LEINSTER: 15. Hugo Keenan; 14. Jordan Larmour, 13. Ross Byrne, 12. Robbie Henshaw, 11. Dave Kearney; 10. Johnny Sexton (capt), 9. Jamison Gibson-Park; 1. Cian Healy, 2. Sean Cronin, 3. Andrew Porter, 4. Scott Fardy, 5. James Ryan, 6. Rhys Ruddock, 7. Josh van der Flier, 8. Caelan Doris. Reps: 16. James Tracy, 17. Ed Byrne, 18. Michael Bent, 19. Ross Molony, 20. Jack Conan, 21. Luke McGrath, 22. Harry Byrne, 23. Jimmy O’Brien.
ULSTER: 15. Michael Lowry; 14. Matt Faddes, 13. James Hume, 12. Stuart McCloskey, 11. Ethan McIlroy; 10. Billy Burns, 9. John Cooney; 1. Andrew Warwick, 2. Rob Herring, 3. Marty Moore, 4. Alan O’Connor, 5. Sam Carter (capt), 6. Greg Jones, 7. Jordi Murphy, 8. Marcell Coetzee. Reps: 16. John Andrew, 17. Eric O’Sullivan, 18. Tom O’Toole, 19. Kieran Treadwell, 20. Nick Timoney, 21. David Shanahan, 22. Ian Madigan, 23. Ben Moxham.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 7, 2021
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