Leinster packing a powerful punch for visit of Montpellier

Jack Carty leads Connacht against Leicester; Robert Baloucoune fit again

Champions Cup: Leinster v Montpellier, Sunday January 16th, RDS Arena (kick-off 1pm, BT Sports).

Ireland captain Johnny Sexton will start on the bench for Leinster in Sunday’s Heineken Champions Cup pool match against Montpellier at the RDS. Ross Byrne forms a halfback partnership with Jamison Gibson-Park.

Robbie Henshaw is a notable absentee with Ciarán Frawley partnering Garry Ringrose in midfield. James Lowe is also in the replacements with Jimmy O’Brien, who has primarily played centre or fullback, included on the left wing. Jack Conan returns from injury having missed the victory over Bath last month.

Sexton has not played since damaging a leg in Ireland’s victory over New Zealand during the Autumn Nations series in November. Leinster had a couple of Covid-19 cases that likely impacted on head coach Leo Cullen’s selection.


James Ryan will captain a team that show just three changes to the starting line-up from that win over Bath on December 11th - the last match played by the province - with O’Brien replacing Lowe, Ryan in for Ryan Baird and Conan at number eight with Caelan Doris switching to blindside flanker in place of Rhys Ruddock; the latter is set to make his 50th appearance in the tournament.

Leinster: H Keenan; J Larmour, G Ringrose, C Frawley, J O'Brien; R Byrne, J Gibson-Park; A Porter, R Kelleher, T Furlong; R Molony, J Ryan (capt); C Doris, J van der Flier, J Conan. Replacements: D Sheehan, C Healy, M Ala'alatoa, R Ruddock, M Deegan, L McGrath, J Sexton, J Lowe.

Champions Cup: Connacht v Leicester, Saturday January 15th, The Sportsground (kick-off 3.15pm, BT Sport).

Connacht coach Andy Friend has made three changes to the side that beat Munster in a URC match on New Year’s Day for tomorrow’s Champions Cup game against the Leicester Tigers at the Sportsground.

Shane Delahunt starts at hooker, Niall Murray returns to secondrow while Connacht’s all-time record try scorer Matt Healy comes in for his first appearance of the season on the left wing. Among the replacements is Paul Boyle who has recovered from injury to return to the matchday 23 for the first time since the end of November.

Friend said: “This is a huge game and a huge opportunity for the club, but we’ve been treating this like any other game that we want to win. We’ve grown as a group even in the last month since we visited Leicester, so now it’s all about executing and playing as well as I know we’re capable of.

“We’ll no doubt miss the few extra thousand supporters who would’ve been at The Sportsground without the current restrictions, but I’m sure those lucky enough to have a ticket will make their voices heard.”

Connacht: T O'Halloran; J Porch, S Arnold, B Aki, M Healy; J Carty (capt), K Marmion; M Burke, S Delahunt, F Bealham; O Dowling, N Murray; C Prendergast, C Oliver, J Butler. Replacements: D Heffernan, T Tuimauga, J Aungier, U Dillane, P Boyle, C Blade, C Fitzgerald, T Farrell.

Champions Cup: Northampton Saints v Ulster, Sunday January 16th, Franklin’s Gardens (kick-off 3.15pm, BT Sport).

Ireland international Robert Baloucoune has recovered from injury to claim a place on Ulster’s right wing for their trip to Franklin’s Gardens on Sunday. Stewart Moore comes in to partner James Hume in the midfield, the latter reverting to his more favoured position of outside centre, having shrugged off an ankle injury sustained against Munster.

John Cooney’s leg injury means that Nathan Doak will make his first start in a European game. There is no Jack McGrath so Andrew Warwick starts at loosehead prop with a fit again Marty Moore replacing Tom O’Toole. Kieran Treadwell and Marcus Rea come into the back five in the pack.

Ian Madigan, who has yet to play this season, is named on a bench that includes Dave Shanahan and Eric O’Sullivan.

Ulster: M Lowry; R Baloucoune, J Hume, S Moore, E McIlroy; B Burns, N Doak; A Warwick, R Herring, M Moore; A O'Connor (capt), K Treadwell; M Rea, N Timoney, D Vermeulen. Replacements: J Andrew, E O'Sullivan, T O'Toole, S Carter, G Jones, D Shanahan, I Madigan, B Moxham.

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer