Preview: Leinster v Toulon

Date published: December 18 2015

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Leinster Rugby Head Coach Leo Cullen has made a few injury-enforced changes to his side for Saturday's European Champions Cup clash against defending champions Toulon at the Aviva Stadium. 

The game will mark significant milestones in the careers of Rhys Ruddock and Mike McCarthy.

Fergus McFadden and Isaac Boss have both failed to shake off minor strains in time. McFadden picked up a calf strain on Tuesday and didn't come through the Friday's session, likewise Boss who had a hamstring issue during the week. Neither injury is of long-term concern to the coaching staff.

As a result, Rob Kearney continues at full-back with Dave Kearney coming in for McFadden on the right wing and Isa Nacewa on the left. Nacewa also captains the side in his first game at the Aviva Stadium since December 2012.

Luke Fitzgerald and Ben Te'o continue in the centre while Eoin Reddan comes in at scrum-half to partner Johnny Sexton.

In the pack Jack McGrath starts at loosehead beside Richardt Strauss at hooker and Mike Ross at tighthead. 

In the second row Devin Toner and Mike McCarthy are once again selected. The game against Toulon will be McCarthy's 300th senior club appearance since his debut for Wasps in the 2001/2002 season against Sale Sharks. 

There is no change either in the back row with Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier and Jamie Heaslip once again selected. Ruddock also has reason to celebrate as the game against Toulon will be his 100th appearance in blue since his debut in December 2009 against the Newport Gwent Dragons. 

20-year-old Nick McCarthy is in line to make his Leinster senior debut from the bench. The UCD scrum-half, who is a member of the Leinster Academy and was registered for the Champions Cup only this week in the absence of the injured Luke McGrath, was captain of the Ireland U20's last season.

Meanwhile, Toulon have made just two changes to their starting XV as former Springbok flank Juan Smith replaces Mamuka Gorgodze, who drops to the bench, while Romain Taofifenua comes in for Samu Manoa.

Form: Toulon are undefeated (W3) against Leinster Rugby in the Champions Cup including wins against them in the knock-out stages of each of the last two tournaments. Leinster are now enduring their worst losing streak (four matches) in their 139 match Champions Cup history. Leinster have never lost back to back home games in the same season of a Champions Cup campaign. Toulon have won 16 of their last 18 Champions Cup matches, though both of the losses have come on the road.

The teams:

Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Dave Kearney, 13 Ben Te'o, 12 Luke Fitzgerald, 11 Isa Nacewa, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip 7 Josh Van Der Flier, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Jack McGrath
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Martin Moore, 19 Tom Denton, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Nick Mc Carthy, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Zane Kirchner

Toulon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Eric Escande, 8 Duane Vermeulen 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Juan Smith, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Jocelino Suta, 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Florian Fresia
Replacements: 16 Anthony Etrillard, 17 Xavier Chiocci, 18 Levan Chilachava, 19 Mamuka Gorgodze, 20 Juan Fernandez Lobbe, 21 Tom Taylor, 22 Sebastien Tillous-Borde, 23 Konstantine Mikautadze

Date: Saturday, December 19
Venue: Aviva Stadium
Kick-off: 17:15 GMT
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referees: Tim Wigglesworth (England), Paul Dix (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)

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