Ulster and Leinster have battled hard all year to secure their Guinness PRO14 semi-final places. They wrap up the regular season tonight, with both sides keen to build momentum heading into next week’s play-offs.
GUINNESS PRO14: Saturday, August 29
Team News: Australian international Sam Carter will captain Ulster for the first time, as Dan McFarland’s men tackle unbeaten Leinster to begin the second weekend of the back-to-back interprovincial derbies in Dublin.
It is all change in the front row as Rob Herring, a late withdrawal last week, returns at hooker, flanked by Eric O’Sullivan and Tom O’Toole. Ballymena man Matthew Rea comes in at blindside flanker, with Jordi Murphy and Marcell Coetzee backing up from the Connacht game.
Following his debut off the bench against the westerners, Ian Madigan makes his first start for Ulster in the number 10 jersey. He combines with former Leinster team-mate John Cooney at half-back.
Returning wingers Matt Faddes and Robert Lyttle join Jacob Stockdale in the back-three, the latter looking to add to his try from the round 14 defeat. James Hume, who has been cleared to play after his concussion last week, and Stuart McCloskey remain in place in midfield.
Meanwhile, Carlow man Ed Byrne will lead out Leinster for the first time in a competitive fixture, captaining the Conference A table-toppers from the front row. Head coach Leo Cullen has made the full 23 changes to his squad from the 27-25 derby win over Munster.
Loosehead Byrne, Sean Cronin, Michael Bent and Devin Toner are all promoted from the bench, with Ross Molony completing the tight five. Max Deegan anchors a back row that contains fellow Academy graduates Josh Murphy and Will Connors.
With Ulster looking forward to a semi-final trip to Edinburgh in the coming days, Carter is one of eight changes to the team that lost 26-20 to Ulster last Sunday. The 30-year-old Sydney native partners Kieran Treadwell in the second row.
Rob Kearney wins his 219th provincial cap, slotting in at full-back for his first appearance since mid-February. The back-line is marshalled by Ross Byrne and half-back partner Jamison Gibson-Park, who is representing Leinster for the 90th time.
The wing spots are filled by Hugo Keenan and Cian Kelleher, who scored four tries in his last five games before the Coronavirus outbreak, while noted out-half Ciaran Frawley gets a first chance to impress in the inside centre position, alongside Rory O’Loughlin.
Tom Clarkson, the promising 20-year-old Academy prop, is poised to make his senior debut from the Leinster bench. The Dublin University clubman has impressed at tighthead for the Ireland Under-20s over the past 18 months.