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The Champions Cup final team Brian O’Driscoll wants Leinster to pick

By Liam Heagney
Leinster's Will Connors (left) with Jordan Larmour (Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Brian O’Driscoll has recommended Leinster make three changes to their XV for this Saturday’s Investec Champions Cup final versus Toulouse in London from the side chosen for their semi-final win over Northampton – including the benching of Josh van der Flier, the 2022 World Rugby player of the year.

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The Irish province defeated the Saints at Croke Park 20-17 on May 4 and with Leo Cullen set to confirm his cup final team at noon on Friday, Irish legend O’Driscoll has told RugbyPass the names he wants to see included on that teamsheet.

Hugo Keenan, James Ryan, and Will Connors made their comebacks in last Saturday’s United Rugby Championship loss to Ulster from various recent injuries and O’Driscoll believes they should now all be named in the XV to face Toulouse in the Champions final at Tottenham.

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Keenan had a knee problem since the early April round-of-16 win over Leicester. Ryan was out with a ruptured bicep sustained in a “freak” training ground injury with Ireland in the lead-up to their early March Guinness Six Nations loss to England. Meanwhile, Connors was a late withdrawal from this month’s league win over Ospreys, crying off on a precautionary basis.

O’Driscoll suggested that Leinster would be best served to take on their French rivals with Keenan replacing Ciaran Frawley at full-back, Ryan taking over from Ross Molony at lock and Connors getting the openside nod ahead of van der Flier following the semi-final against Northampton.

Fixture
Investec Champions Cup
Leinster
22 - 31
Full-time
Toulouse
All Stats and Data

Asked if Ryan should start in the engine room, O’Driscoll explained: “Yes, he starts. He does because of what he does. You look at the importance of losing him in the final last year when he came off (versus La Rochelle).

“I just think there is a comfort that comes with someone who has been around a long time. He has maybe not the physicality but he has a little bit of a nasty edge to him that I just fancy if he is fit and the engine is good enough I think you’d want him on for 55, 60 minutes as a starter for sure.”

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So name your ideal XV. “Front row picks itself (Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, and Tadhg Furlong). There is your second row (Ryan with Joe McCarthy). I think you might see Will Connors at seven just because of a bigger physical pack; it worked really well against La Rochelle (in the quarter-final).

“I know Josh won’t love that but the luxury of having him come on with 35 minutes to go, you know, playing the game that he can bring, I just think that chop game will be important to Leinster.

“I watched back the semi-final last year (versus Toulouse) and (Jack) Conan was so good, but taking (Caelan) Doris out of eight and putting him to six just doesn’t make sense to his game, so I think Doris will play eight and (Ryan) Baird will play six.

“Half-backs pick themselves (Jamison Gibson-Park and Ross Byrne). Centres will be (Jamie) Osborne and (Robbie) Henshaw, provided (Garry) Ringrose isn’t fit.

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“And then I think you have got to stay with (Jordan) Larmour and (James) Lowe on the wings with Hugo Keenan at full-back. I just don’t know if Jimmy O’Brien has done enough since returning from injury yet to displace Jordan.”

Leinster defeated Toulouse 41-22 in last year’s semi-final in Dublin 12 months after beating them 40-17 in another semi-final fixture at the same Aviva Stadium.

  • Watch Leinster vs Toulouse in the Investec Champions Cup final, exclusively live on TNT Sports 1 and discovery+ from 1:30pm on Saturday. For more info visit tntsports.com
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