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Sexton only makes bench as Leinster change just two for semi-final

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

Defending champions Leinster have made just two changes to their XV for this Friday’s URC semi-final at home to the Bulls, Leo Cullen recalling Robbie Henshaw and Jack Conan to start and deciding that club skipper Johnny Sexton is only good enough for a bench spot this week.

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The Irish province sent records tumbling last Saturday with their power-packed 76-14 demolition of a hapless Glasgow whose coach Danny Wilson paid the ultimate price a few days later when losing his job.

Cullen had made seven changes to his XV for that league quarter-final seven days after it was agonisingly beaten in the Heineken Champions Cup final. One of those changes was to omit Sexton from the Leinster matchday 23 as he has limped off in the decider in Marseille. That led to Ross Byrne’s promotion from the bench to take on the Warriors and he now keeps hold of the No10 jersey with Sexton held in reserve.

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Marcell Coetzee previews Bulls v Leinster URC semifinal
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Marcell Coetzee previews Bulls v Leinster URC semifinal

Leinster, though, have promoted 2021 Lions duo Henshaw and Conan back into their XV, Ciaran Frawley and Ryan Baird dropping down to the bench on this occasion. Conan will start at eight which means that Caelan Doris switches to blindside, the position occupied by Baird against Glasgow.

Fresh from their dramatic drop-goal win over South African rivals the Sharks in their quarter-final in Pretoria, the Bulls have named an unchanged starting XV for the Dublin semi-final but there are four bench changes with Bismarck du Plessis, Simphiwe Matanzima, WJ Steenkamp and Kurt-Lee Arendse all included.

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Bulls boss Jake White said: “Leinster is a phenomenal side that is very well-coached and is full of international players. You look at their bench and they have players who have more caps for the club than the entire Bulls team combined. We are definitely up against a quality side and it will be a great challenge.”

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LEINSTER: 15. Jimmy O’Brien; 14. Jordan Larmour, 13. Garry Ringrose, 12. Robbie Henshaw, 11. Rory O’Loughlin; 10. Ross Byrne, 9. Jamison Gibson-Park; 1. Andrew Porter, 2. Dan Sheehan, 3. Tadhg Furlong, 4. Joe McCarthy, 5. James Ryan (capt), 6. Caelan Doris, 7. Josh van der Flier, 8. Jack Conan. Reps: 16. Sean Cronin, 17. Cian Healy, 18. Michael Ala’alatoa, 19. Ross Molony, 20. Ryan Baird, 21. Luke McGrath, 22. Johnny Sexton, 23. Ciaran Frawley.

BULLS: 15. Canan Moodie; 14. David Kriel, 13. Cornal Hendricks, 12. Harold Vorster, 11. Madosh Tambwe; 10. Chris Smith, 9. Zak Burger; 1. Gerhard Steenekamp, 2. Johan Grobbelaar, 3. Mornay Smith, 4. Walt Steenkamp, 5. Ruan Nortje, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 7. Arno Botha, 8. Elrigh Louw. Reps: 16. Bismarck du Plessis, 17. Simphiwe Matanzima, 18. Robert Hunt, 19. Janko Swanepoel, 20. WJ Steenkamp, 21. Embrose Papier, 22. Morne Steyn, 23. Kurt-Lee Arendse.

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