Cian Healy returns to the starting XV for Leinster in their Guinness PRO12 opener on Friday night and backs coach Girvan Dempsey has been very impressed with the prop’s mental strength.
Healy has had a miserable time of it with injuries in recent years and last started for the men in blue in the Guinness PRO12 against Edinburgh in April.
Joey Carbery will make his first start at number 10 having made his debut last season and Luke McGrath captains the side from scrum-half.
But all eyes are on Healy who returns in the front row alongside Brian Byrne and Michael Bent.
“He’s been chomping at the bit for a while now. We’re just delighted to have him back,” said Dempsey.
“Cian’s character is incredible. His mental strength is unbelievable. He just loves the game. He’s had setbacks through injury but he’s come through the other side, he’s worked really hard and he’s in great shape now. He’s itching to put the Leinster jersey on and play tomorrow night.”
Rob Kearney starts at full-back and is joined in the back three by 31 times capped Springbok Zane Kirchner and Fergus McFadden on the left wing.
Noel Reid and Garry Ringrose will get an opportunity to impress from 12 and 13 having last started together in the centre last November against the Scarlets in a 19-15 win.
Ross Molony and Mike McCarthy pair up in the second row while in the back row Dominic Ryan, Josh van der Flier and Dan Leavy start after impressing in the three friendlies to date.
Should Leo Cullen use his replacements bench there will be Leinster debuts for former Hurricane Jamison Gibson-Park at scrum-half and for Academy pair Andrew Porter and Rory O’Loughlin.
But the likes of Jonathan Sexton and new signing Robbie Henshaw are still some way off returning.
Leinster’s only victory in their last eight season-opening fixtures in the Guinness PRO12 was 42-19 at Scarlets in 2013, however they have not begun the season with a home game since beating Edinburgh at the RDS Arena in 2007.
Leinster are unbeaten in their last 11 matches against Treviso, whilst their only defeat to an Italian side in the Guinness PRO12 came in Treviso in September 2010.
There are eight new faces in the Treviso 23 chosen by coach Kieran Crowley.
Full-back will be Jayden Hayward, on the wings Angelo Esposito and Andrea Buondonno. Tommaso Benvenuti and Luke McLean will be respectively right and left centre.
The half backs are Giorgio Bronzini at scrum-half and Tommaso Allan at fly-half.
The front row will consist of Nicola Quaglio, Ornel Gega and Simone Ferrari.
Locks will be Marco Fuser and Filo Paulo. Finally, the back row sees Francesco Minto, Marco Lazzaroni and captain Alessandro Zanni completing the XV chosen by Crowley.
“We jump straight in with Leinster and Ulster,” said Crowley.
“For me that’s great because you have to play them some time and then after a couple of weeks we can draw a line in the sand and say this is where we’re at, what’s our goal for the year.
“There’s no point setting a target when we haven’t yet been tested and saying our ambition is to get to the final for example and then after the first two games see that it’s not realistic. So we’ll play the first two games and hopefully our performances will be reasonable and we can have a look at things and say this is what we’re going to aim to do.”
At RDS Arena, 7:35pm. Live on TG4
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU, 25th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Sean Brickell (WRU), Joy Nevill (IRFU)
Citing Commissioner: John Cole (IRFU)
TMO: Jon Mason (WRU)
Joey Carbery enjoyed a full debut to remember as he scored two tries for Leinster in their opening 20-8 Guinness PRO12 victory over Treviso.
The 20-year-old was given his first start at fly-half by Leo Cullen and it paid off with two tries in the first half as Leinster flew out of the blocks.
But they were pushed hard by a Treviso side who kept battling, and thanks to Marco Fuser’s try late in the first half, continued to dream of a first win in Dublin.
But in the end, Leinster had a little too much, and replacement hooker James Tracy’s try wrapped up the win.
Carbery was highly-touted as a youngster coming through, and after making his debut off the bench last season, he made the perfect start on his first start.
With just three minutes gone, Leinster set up camp on the Treviso line, and when the ball was spread, Carbery showed his quick feet to dance out of a couple of tackles and then go under the posts. Fergus McFadden converted to make it 7-0 early on.
Treviso should have cut the deficit with a penalty in front from the 22 but Tommaso Allan’s effort clipped the post and away.
And as one fly-half struggled, his opposite number showed all his talent with a second, magnificent try.
Carbery had already shown his quick feet, but he clearly has pace too, and after breaking through he raced away, beat the last man and sprinted over on the left for the second Irish try of the evening.
McFadden was off-target with the conversion, but when he knocked over a penalty just after the half-hour, Leinster looked to be in control at 15-0.
However just before half-time, Treviso struck, and it was a lovely try. Having got themselves into the Leinster 22, scrum-half Giorgio Bronzini produced a lovely dummy and inside pass for Fuser and he burst through before reaching over for the try.
In the second half Treviso fought hard, and got back to within a score when Allan knocked over his first kick of the evening with a penalty.
Then on the hour there was a momentous occasion as Treviso brought on fly-half Ian McKinley, who had come through the ranks in Dublin before an eye injury looked to have ended his career.
After a long road he is a part of the Treviso squad this season and got his chance against his former team to try to orchestrate the victory.
Leinster had more of the ball though, and they finally got the try that made the result safe, from a huge rolling maul. A lineout on the 22 was cleanly taken and the Leinster pack marched inexorably towards the line, with Tracy the man to emerge.
Leinster gave it everything for the fourth try but couldn’t manage it, having to settle for four points from their first game of the campaign.
Guinness PRO12 Final 2017 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 adults and €5 child, and be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie. For further information visit http://www.pro12rugby.com/final
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