Leinster v Ulster team news: Johnny Sexton out but Iain Henderson and other doubts passed fit for Ulster
Leinster have been dealt an injury blow ahead of the European Champions Cup quarter-final against Ulster, with Johnny Sexton missing while Iain Henderson has been passed fit to make his return from injury for the visitors.
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Sexton was considered a doubt ahead of Friday morning training but was not included when Leinster announced their team at 12 noon with Ross Byrne instead starting at out-half. Noel Reid provided cover for the pivotal position from the bench.
Kept on the bench for Leinster is Ireland's Rob Kearney, although his omission is a tactical decision, to allow Jordan Larmour to start at full-back with Adam Byrne and Dave Kearney on the wings. Jack McGrath, heavily linked with a move to Ulster this summer, is not in the squad.
There's better news for Ulster as star Irish lock Henderson has won his race against time to be fit after sustaining a knee injury against France in the Six Nations earlier this month.
He'll line up at Aviva Stadium on Saturday (kick-off 5.45pm) along with Darren Cave, who caused concern when he was withdrawn with a rib injury during last weekend's win over Southern Kings, and Marty Moore, who successfully came through return to play protocols to hold his place in the line-up.
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Given Ulster's problems at centre with Will Addison, James Hume, Angus Curtis and Luke Marshall all out, Luke Marshall has been included as a replacement for the first time this season, after overcoming an ACL injury sustained against Ospreys in May last year.
With Louis Ludik missing through injury, Michael Lowry comes in to full-back as expected. Jacob Stockdale and John Cooney are back in with Rob Lyttle dropping out of the panel as he is not registered in the European squad and Dave Shanahan dropping to the bench.
Stockdale and Lowry are joined by Robert Baloucoune in the back three while Stuart McCloskey is alongside Cave at centre and Billy Burns continues his promising partnership with Cooney.
Internationals Rory Best, Henderson and Jordi Murphy all return to a pack that features five changes. Also in are Eric O'Sullivan and Kieran Treadwell with Andy Warwick, Rob Herring and Alan O'Connor among the replacements.
Best will pack down between Leinster-born pair O'Sullivan and Moore while Treadwell and Henderson are at lock and Nick Timoney and Marcell Coetzee form the back row with Murphy, who plays against his former side for the first time.
Sean Reidy will make his 100th Ulster appearance as a replacement while Rory Best plays in his 75th European game.
Wiehahn Herbst and Angus Kernohan are the remaining Ulster replacements.
Elsewhere for Leinster, James Lowe misses out as only two 'overseas' players are permitted under tournament rules. Scott Fardy starts in the second row and Jamison Gibson-Park is the back-up scrumhalf to Luke McGrath.
Ed Byrne provided the cover for Cian Healy who starts alongside Sean Cronin and Tadhg Furlong in the front row. James Ryan partners Fardy in the second row.
Leinster will start with a centre partnership of Rory O'Loughlin and Garry Ringrose. Dave Kearney, Adam Byrne and Jordan Larmour make up the back three.
The game is sold out and 13,000-15,000 Ulster fans are expected to be in attendance.
Leinster team to face Ulster
(15-9): Jordan Larmour; Adam Byrne, Garry Ringrose, Rory O'Loughlin, Dave Kearney; Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath;
(1-8): Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Tadhg Furlong, Scott Fardy, James Ryan, Rhys Ruddock, Sean O'Brien, Jack Conan;
Replacements (16-23): James Tracey, Ed Byrne, Andrew Porter, Mick Kearney, Dan Leavy, Jamison Gibson-Park, Noel Reid, Rob Kearney.
Ulster team to face Leinster
(15-9): Michael Lowry; Robert Baloucoune, Darren Cave, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale; Billy Burns, John Cooney;
(1-8): Eric O’Sullivan, Rory Best, Marty Moore, Iain Henderson, Kieran Treadwell, Nick Timoney, Jordi Murphy, Marcell Coetzee;
Replacements (16-23): Rob Herring, Andy Warwick, Wiehahn Herbst, Alan O’Connor, Sean Reidy, Dave Shanahan, Luke Marshall, Angus Kernohan.
Belfast Telegraph Digital