Preview: Leinster v Ulster

Date published: January 2 2015

Leinster make five changes in personnel to the team that faced Munster in Thomond Park, with captain Jamie Heaslip and a host of other internationals returning to the fold.

Four of those changes are in the pack with Jack McGrath and Mike Ross starting in the front row and Richardt Strauss continuing at hooker.

Devin Toner comes back into the second row to partner Mike McCarthy, while in the back row Jamie Heaslip starts at eight which means a start at blindside flanker for Jack Conan. Shane Jennings start at openside to complete the forwards.

In the backs, there is only one change which sees the fit again Fergus McFadden start on the right wing in place of Darragh Fanning. McFadden had surgery on a thumb injury after the game against the Ospreys in Round 9 of the Pro12. Dave Kearney is selected on the left wing, with 28 times capped Springbok, Zane Kirchner at full-back.

Gordon D’Arcy, who won his 250th Leinster cap against Munster, starts at inside centre with Luke Fitzgerald outside him at 13. Finally, Isaac Boss and Ian Madigan are once again the starting half backs.

There is also a place in the matchday 23 for the returning Ben Te’o, who is available for the first time since fracturing his forearm during his debut against Edinburgh in October.

Meanwhile, Ulster head coach Neil Doak has made four changes and two positional switches to the team that beat Connacht.

Ruan Pienaar has recovered from injury and starts, while Rory Best and Tommy Bowe, who were rested against Connacht, come back into the starting XV.

Stuart Olding is also included in the side having been on the bench last week, as is Roger Wilson who has recovered from the knock that he sustained against Connacht.

Form: Leinster’s five game unbeaten run in the Guinness PRO12 came to an end in Limerick on St Stephen’s Day. The Leinstermen have not lost successive encounters in the competition in the same season since 2010/11. Leinster have won their last 19 fixtures in all competitions at the RDS Arena since drawing there 29-all with Ospreys in September 2013, whilst their most recent defeat at the venue came when Ulster were the visitors in the PRO12 when Michael Cheika was in charge in March 2013. Ulster defeated Connacht 13-10 in Belfast in Round 11 of the Guinness PRO12 to end a two game losing streak in the tournament. The Ulstermen’s only victory on the road in any tournament this season was at Cardiff Blues in Round 3 of the PRO12. Leinster have won their last four encounters with Ulster since the men from the North were victorious 22-18 at the RDS on 30 March 2013 – the Ulstermen’s only victory on Leinster soil since 1999.

The teams:

Leinster: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Luke Fitzgerald, 12 Gordon D’Arcy, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Issac Boss, 8 Jamie Heaslip (c), 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Jack Conan, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Jack McGrath
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Michael Bent, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 Kane Douglas, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Jimmy Gopperth, 23 Ben Te’o

Ulster: 15 Peter Nelson, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Stuart Olding, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Clive Ross, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Franco van der Merwe, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Callum Black
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Bronson Ross, 19 Alan O’Connor, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Ian Humphreys, 23 Luke Marshall

Date: Saturday, 3 January
Venue: RDS, Dublin
Kick-off: 14.40 GMT
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant referees: Eddie Hogan-O’Connell (Ireland), Mark Connolly (Ireland)
Television match official: Jude Quinn (Ireland)