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Big guns return for all-Irish semi

Guinness PRO12 Editor

14 May 2010

Leinster and Munster welcome back a whole host of big-name stars for Saturday’s mouth-watering Magners League Play-Off at the RDS.

Jonathan Sexton starts at fly-half for the hosts having not featured in the competition since the 16-15 win at Munster at the beginning of April.

The Ireland outside-half fractured his jaw in the Heineken Cup quarter-final win over Clermont Auvergne five weeks ago and was considered a serious doubt for this last-four encounter.

Sexton’s return sees Isa Nacewa, who was one of the heroes of last Saturday’s nail-biting win over Edinburgh, move to the left wing, where he forms an exciting-looking back three with Irish internationals Rob Kearney and Shane Horgan.

Munster are able to call upon an international quintet who all missed the Round 18 encounter at Cardiff Blues last weekend, with Doug Howlett, Keith Earls, Jerry Flannery, John Hayes and Mick O’Driscoll all named in their matchday 22 for the trip to the Irish capital.

Former All Black wing Howlett has been sidelined since the Heineken Cup win over Northampton in early April, while Earls, Flannery and O’Driscoll missed last week’s narrow defeat through injuries that had threatened to rule them out of Saturday’s clash.

Hayes was given a well-earned rest last time out but he replaces Tony Buckley in the front row, with Earls’ return meaning Lifeimi Mafi switches to the left wing while Denis Hurley makes way for Howlett on the right.

Flannery takes a spot among the replacements, with Damien Varley continuing in the No2 shirt.

The fine form of back row duo Niall Ronan and Nick Williams limits British & Irish Lions Test star David Wallace to a place on the bench alongside Flannery, while Springbok centre Jean de Villiers will be making his last appearance for the reigning Magners League Champions should they slip to a fourth straight defeat to their rivals.

Both teams will have to do without their club captains after second row giants Leo Cullen and Paul O’Connell were ruled out through injury.

Nathan Hines and the retiring Malcolm O’Kelly start at lock for Leinster in Cullen’s absence, while Donncha O’Callaghan and the returning O’Driscoll will attempt to limit the impact of O’Connell’s absence from the boilerhouse.

Shane Jennings skippers Leinster from the openside flank and Ronan O’Gara takes the armband for Munster at fly-half.

Leinster vs Munster, Saturday, kick-off 8pm, RDS


15: Rob Kearney
14: Shane Horgan
13: Brian O’Driscoll
12: Gordon D’Arcy
11: Isa Nacewa
10: Jonathan Sexton
9: Eoin Reddan

1: Cian Healy
2: John Fogarty
3: Stan Wright
4: Nathan Hines
5: Malcolm O’Kelly
6: Kevin McLaughlin
7: Shane Jennings (captain)
8: Jamie Heaslip

Replacements from: Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, CJ van der Linde, Trevor Hogan, Rhys Ruddock, Stephen Keogh, Paul O’Donohoe, Shaun Berne, Fergus McFadden, Girvan Dempsey 


15: Paul Warwick
14: Doug Howlett
13: Keith Earls
12: Jean de Villiers
11: Lifeimi Mafi
10: Ronan O’Gara (captain)
9: Tomas O’Leary 

1: Marcus Horan
2: Damien Varley
3: John Hayes
4: Donncha O’Callaghan
5: Mick O’Driscoll
6: Alan Quinlan
7: Niall Ronan
8: Nick Williams 


16: Jerry Flannery
17: Dave Ryan
18: James Coughlan
19: David Wallace
20: Peter Stringer
21: Denis Hurley
22: Scott Deasy