Leinster’s team to face Cardiff Blues in Sunday’s Magners League clash at the Cardiff City Stadium (4pm) has been named.
Shane Jennings and Eoin Reddan return from Ireland duty and are included in the starting line-up for the trip to Cardiff. Jennings forms a back-row unit which includes Kevin McLaughlin and Stephen Keogh, with Malcolm O’Kelly locking down alongside Devin Toner.
CJ van der Linde starts at tight-head prop in a front row which includes Bernard Jackman and Stan Wright.
Reddan partners Shaun Berne at half-back, with Isa Nacewa named on the left wing in a back three which includes the experienced Girvan Dempsey and 18-year-old Andrew Conway who comes in for his first senior start for the province on the right wing.
Ireland Under-20 captain Rhys Ruddock is named amongst the replacements alongside the likes of Ireland internationals Trevor Hogan and Mike Ross.
15: Girvan Dempsey
14: Andrew Conway
13: Eoin O’Malley
12: Fergus McFadden
11: Isa Nacewa
10: Shaun Berne
9: Eoin Reddan
1: Stan Wright
2: Bernard Jackman
3: CJ van der Linde
4: Devin Toner
5: Malcolm O’Kelly
6: Kevin McLaughlin
7: Shane Jennings CAPTAIN
8: Stephen Keogh
16: Richardt Strauss
17: Mike Ross
18: Trevor Hogan
19: Rhys Ruddock
20: Paul O’Donohoe
21: Ian Madigan
22: Simon Keogh
Looking ahead to Sunday’s clash in Cardiff, Leinster back Shaun Berne believes that the game will present an opportunity for every member of the squad to stake a claim ahead of a crucial month in the Magners League: "Even though we won last time out against Cardiff in the RDS, Sunday’s game will be a real test for us coming, as it does, when so many of our players are away on international duty. At this time of year the squad’s resources are stretched, but with a few of the international players returning, we’re in a good frame of mind ahead of the game.
"Having played Cardiff twice before with Bath, you know what to expect against them, or any Welsh side for that matter; pride, physicality and a high skill level. They’re apassionate rugby playing people and rugby’s pretty much a national past-time over there.
"From a player’s perspective it’s a great place to play and with the new stadium and a good surface to play on it should make for an exciting game.
"Cardiff are a club who have been well served by their foreign signings. European rugby takes a bit of getting used to coming from the southern hemisphere, so it’s no guarantee that players will settle. I have played against the likes of Xavier Rush and Ben Blair before in the old Super 12 competition and they’re two consistent performers, while Maama Molitika gives them greater options in the back-row, which is a very solid unit.
"I have also played with Sam Norton-Knight with the Waratahs and even though he hasn’t played as regularly this season, he’s one of those players who likes to play the game at a high speed. He’s a very good player and we’ll need to be mindful of his threats whether he starts or comes off the bench.
"Even though we have big games coming up this month in the Magners League, we’ll take it one game at a time and we’re not looking beyond this challenge. For those of us who want to play regularly in the side as we approach the business end of the season, Sunday will present an opportunity to stake a claim.
"As well as the pride in representing Leinster, the Ireland players who have been released this week will no doubt look to Jonathan Sexton’s example last month when a good showing against the Scarlets helped him earn a spot in the win over England last weekend.
"It’s imperative that we begin well and look to dominate the key exchanges and if we manage that we’ll need to be playing at the top of our game to get the win."