O’Brien Blow For Leinster As Cullen Pulls Rabbit From The Hat


Leinster will face Premiership heavyweights Saracens without Sean O’Brien who’s failed a fitness test on a shoulder injury ahead of Sunday’s European Champions Cup quarter-final meeting at the Aviva Stadium.

In his absence the Blues coach Leo Cullen has selected Australian lock forward Scott Fardy at blindside flanker in a major surprise move not expected or predicted by anyone. James Ryan and Devin Toner form the second row instead as Fardy assumes a different positional responsibility.

Elsewhere Ireland grand slammer surprise star forward Dan Leavy will wear the number six shirt with Jordi Murphy is named at the back of the scrum. Meanwhile English out-half Owen Farrell has recovered from quad injury to start at out half for the Visitors.

The holders only scraped through to the knock out stages and a home semi- final is be on offer for Leinster if Scarlets beat La Rochelle this evening.

Leo Cullen is able to recall a number of Ireland players who missed last weekend’s trip to the Ospreys.

Rob Kearney returns at full back with Fergus McFadden on the right wing and James Lowe on the left.

In the centre Isa Nacewa is back to captain the side with Garry Ringrose outside him in the number 13 jersey.

Luke McGrath came through the Ospreys game with no issues on his return from a knee injury and he is joined by Johnny Sexton in the half backs.

In the pack Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong come in to join Seán Cronin in the front row, while Devin Toner and James Ryan are the second row combination.

On the bench Rhys Ruddock is back for his first game since the Exeter game in early December while Max Deegan is in line to make his Champions Cup debut should he be introduced.

Also for the English outfit and Lock George Kruis is fit again and partners Maro Itoje in the row.

Sarries’ other change in the starting XV sees Mako Vunipola promoted to loosehead prop with Richard Barrington in reserve.

Leinster (caps in brackets):

15. Rob Kearney (193)
14. Fergus McFadden (166)
13. Garry Ringrose (45)
12. Isa Nacewa (180) CAPTAIN
11. James Lowe (8)
10. Johnny Sexton (144)
9. Luke McGrath (91)
1. Cian Healy (184)
2. Seán Cronin (147)
3. Tadhg Furlong (78)
4. Devin Toner (211)
5. James Ryan (10)
6. Scott Fardy (17)
7. Dan Leavy (49)
8. Jordi Murphy (101)

16. James Tracy (58)
17. Jack McGrath (126)
18. Andrew Porter (23)
19. Rhys Ruddock (139)
20. Max Deegan (16)
21. Nick McCarthy (21)
22. Joey Carbery (31)
23. Rory O’Loughlin (37)

Referee: Jérome Garcés