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Ulster v Leinster team news: Iain Henderson makes sensational return to start for Ulster but John Cooney dropped to bench for PRO14 final

 

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In two shock moves, Iain Henderson (left) starts the PRO14 final but John Cooney does not.

In two shock moves, Iain Henderson (left) starts the PRO14 final but John Cooney does not.

In two shock moves, Iain Henderson (left) starts the PRO14 final but John Cooney does not.

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland has dropped a pair of bombshells with his team announcement to face Leinster in tomorrow's Guinness PRO14 final.

Skipper Iain Henderson has made a sensational early return from hip surgery to take his place in the second-row while the coach has picked Alby Mathewson ahead of John Cooney to start at scrum-half.

Henderson had been expected to be out until mid-October after having hip surgery in July but has yet again defied the odds to make a speedier than expected recovery, a boost not just to Ulster's silverware hopes tomorrow but also Ireland head coach Andy Farrell.

Cooney, meanwhile, will start on the bench after the side's talisman displayed indifferent form over the past three weeks. Mathewson, a former All Black who arrived only this summer, was impressive as a replacement in the semi-final win over Edinburgh and has done enough to secure a starting spot.

There is also a first start since lockdown for Sean Reidy, the twice-capped Irish international having impressed last week off the bench when coming back from a calf injury.

Even more surprisingly, it comes at the expense of Jordi Murphy, who provides back-up from the bench with Matthew Rea holding his place beside Marcell Coetzee in the back row.

Henderson replaces Sam Carter to start at lock alongside Alan O'Connor.

Another of McFarland's big calls was in the front row, where he has once again gone with youth either side of Rob Herring, Eric O'Sullivan and Tom O'Toole both starting.

Elsewhere, Jacob Stockdale shifts from full-back to his more accustomed position on the wing, opposite the semi-final's man of the match Rob Lyttle. Michael Lowry, 22, comes in at full-back, with Louis Ludik dropping out.

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At centre, James Hume once again partners Stuart McCloskey with Billy Burns at out-half.

As expected, Leinster coach Leo Cullen will start without his usual half-back pairing Johnny Sexton and Luke McGrath with Jamison Gibson-Park and Ross Byrne getting the nod. Garry Ringrose captains the side for the first time.

Ulster

(15-9): Michael Lowry, Rob Lyttle, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Billy Burns, Alby Mathewson.

(1-8): Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Iain Henderson (Captain), Matthew Rea, Sean Reidy, Marcell Coetzee.

Replacements (16-23): John Andrew, Jack McGrath, Marty Moore, Sam Carter, Jordi Murphy, John Cooney, Ian Madigan, Nick Timoney.

Leinster

(15-9): Jordan Larmour, Hugo Keenan, Garry Ringrose (Captain), Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe, Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park

(1-8): Cian Healy, Rónan Kelleher, Andrew Porter, Devin Toner, James Ryan, Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan

Replacements (16-23): James Tracy, Ed Byrne, Michael Bent, Scott Fardy, Will Connors, Luke McGrath, Johnny Sexton, Rory O’Loughlin

Referee

Andrew Brace (IRFU)


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