Leinster load up on Ireland stars for crunch clash with the Bulls

David Skippers
James Lowe and Robbie Henshaw Ireland SN 2024 - Alamy.jpg

Leinster and Ireland backline duo James Lowe and Robbie Henshaw.

The United Rugby Championship continues on Friday as two matches take place, with Leinster and the Dragons hosting the Bulls and Zebre Parma in their respective fixtures.

Leinster v Bulls

Leinster welcome the return of some of their Ireland internationals to their matchday 23 with star wing James Lowe one of the Six Nations winners starting in the backline alongside Jordan Larmour (full-back) and Rob Russell (right wing).

Robbie Henshaw gets the nod with the impressive Jamie Osborne in the centre while fly-half Harry Byrne is partnered in the half-backs by skipper on the day Luke McGrath.

Former World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year Josh van der Flier also starts, with Jack Conan and Ryan Baird completing the back-row.

The robust and ever-improving Joe McCarthy is in the second-row with Ross Molony while Ronan Kelleher, Cian Healy and Samoan Michael Ala’alatoa complete the starting XV.

The bench is one of the strongest ones we will see with the Six Nations’ top try-scorer Dan Sheehan named with Michael Milne and Tadhg Furlong as front-row options while Jason Jenkins and loose forward Caelan Doris round out the forward substitutions.

Magnificent scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park is joined by Ross Byrne and Liam Turner as the final names on the team sheet.

Springbok Elrich Louw headlines the changes made by the Bulls for their crunch clash with Leinster. The flank is joined by co-captain Marcell Coetzee, who starts at number eight, and Marco van Staden in the loose trio.

The other co-captain is Ruan Nortje in the second-row, who partners with Ruan Vermaak, whilst props Wilco Louw and Gerhard Steenekamp are joined by Akker van der Merwe in the front-row.

Embrose Papier is handed a start alongside veteran Johan Goosen as the half-back pairing whilst Rugby World Cup winner Canan Moodie maintains his partnership with David Kriel in the midfield.

Springbok veteran Willie le Roux is named alongside Kurt-Lee Arendse and Devon Williams in a dangerous-looking back-three.

On the pine, last week’s power substitute Johan Grobbelaar is named with Simphiwe Matanzima and Mornay Smith as front-row options as Reinhardt Ludwig and Mpilo Gumede are the other forward replacements.

Scrum-half Zak Burger, fly-half Chris Smith and centre Harold Vorster round out the matchday 23.

The teams

Leinster15 Jordan Larmour, 14 Rob Russell, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Jamie Osborne, 11 James Lowe, 10 Harry Byrne, 9 Luke McGrath (c), 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Ryan Baird, 5 Joe McCarthy, 4 Ross Molony, 3 Michael Ala’alatoa, 2 Rónan Kelleher, 1 Cian Healy
16 Dan Sheehan, 17 Michael Milne, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Caelan Doris, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Liam Turner

Bulls15 Willie Le Roux, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Canan Moodie, 12 David Kriel, 11 Devon Williams, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Marcell Coetzee (c), 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje (cc), 4 Ruan Vermaak, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp
16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Mornay Smith, 19 Reinhardt Ludwig, 20 Mpilo Gumede, 21 Zak Burger, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Harold Vorster

Venue: RDS Arena
Kick-off: 19:35 GMT
Referee: Craig Evans (Wales)
Assistant referees: Chris Busby (Ireland), Andy Fogarty (Ireland)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)

Leinster v Bulls provides litmus test for Ireland and Springbok hopefuls

Dragons v Zebre Parma

Wales trio Rio Dyer, Elliot Dee and Aaron Wainwright all start as the Dragons face Zebre Parma in a highly anticipated United Rugby Championship encounter at Rodney Parade.

The internationals return as part of seven changes made by Dragons head coach Dai Flanagan for the crunch clash between the two teams who prop up the table, with the Dragons currently occupying the bottom position in the standings while Zebre are one spot above them in 15th place.

Dyer is recalled out wide alongside Jared Rosser while centre Aneurin Owen is the other change in midfield, with captain Steff Hughes moving to outside centre.

Dee starts up front alongside Luke Yendle while lock Ben Carter, who made a successful comeback last weekend, is paired with Matthew Screech in the second-row.

Number eight Wainwright returns to the starting line-up with Sean Lonsdale moving across the back-row to blindside flanker. Wainwright’s introduction at the base of the scrum means Taine Basham moves to the openside.

Prop Dmitri Arhip, who joined the Dragons on a short-term deal last week, could make his club debut from the bench where there is also a recall for James Benjamin, who is the replacement hooker.

Meanwhile, Zebre Parma have also been boosted by the return of their internationals from Six Nations duty for this fixture.

In the backline, Azzurri duo Lorenzo Pani and Pierre Bruno return to take their positions at full-back and on the right wing while Franco Smith Jr comes in at outside centre to join Fetuli Paea, while Simone Gesi (left wing) completes the back three.

The rest of the backline sees Tiff Eden and Gonzalo Garcia forming a half-back partnership while the back-row remains unchanged after last week’s home loss to Leinster with captain Giovanni Licata starting at number eight alongside Iacopo Bianchi and Davide Ruggeri, who are the two flankers.

Andrea Zambonin comes in to join Leonard Krumov in the second-row while Giampietro Ribaldi is the starting hooker, who packs down alongside the two props, Juan Pitinari and Italy star Danilo Fischetti.

The teams

Dragons15 Cai Evans, 14 Rio Dyer, 13 Steff Hughes (c), 12 Aneurin Owen, 11 Jared Rosser, 10 Will Reed, 9 Rhodri Williams, 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Taine Basham, 6 Sean Lonsdale, 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Ben Carter, 3 Luke Yendle, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Rhodri Jones
16 James Benjamin, 17 Rodrigo Martinez, 18 Dmitri Arhip, 19 George Nott, 20 Dan Lydiate, 21 Harri Keddie, 22 Dane Blacker, 23 Joe Westwood

Zebre: 15 Lorenzo Pani, 14 Pierre Bruno, 13 Franco Smith Jr, 12 Fetuli Paea, 11 Simone Gesi, 10 Tiff Eden, 9 Gonzalo Garcia, 8 Giovanni Licata (c), 7 Iacopo Bianchi, 6 Davide Ruggeri, 5 Andrea Zambonin, 4 Leonard Krumov, 3 Juan Pitinari, 2 Giampietro Ribaldi, 1 Danilo Fischetti
16 Luca Bigi, 17 Muhamed Hasa, 18 Ion Neculai, 19 David Sisi, 20 Josh Kaifa, 21 Alessandro Fusco, 22 Jacopo Trulla, 23 Guido Volpi

Venue: Rodney Parade
Kick-off: 19:35 GMT
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Adam Jones (Wales), Carwyn Williams (Wales)
TMO: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)

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