Two bold calls in Leinster's expected Champions Cup final team
The big question is, 'Who is stepping up to stop Teddy Thomas?'
Leinster head into the Champions Cup final, in Bilbao, with very few serious injury issues for this stage of such an attritional season.
Key players like Johnny Sexton, Rob Kearney, Tadhg Furlong and Scott Fardy all put their feet up after helping Leinster to shred Scarlets in the semi-final. Such are the pin-point training loads and intensity of sessions that Leinster will be confident their men will be primed for Racing this weekend.
The Hard Yards welcomed Mike Prendergast and former Leinster and Ireland flanker Kevin McLaughlin along [from 7:00 below] to preview a final that could yet deliver a fourth European Cup for the Blues in just nine seasons.
Prendergast, the former Munster scrum-half and current Oyonnax backs coach, believes the fitness of Luke McGrath is key for Leinster. He commented:
"McGrath coming back really enhances their team and gives them more options. I'd say Leinster [to win] by 10 points."
The 25-year-old scrum-half has played little rugby since injuring his knee on Leinster duty in February. He came back for the Champions Cup quarter final win over Saracens but damaged his ankle and missed the semi against Scarlets.
Having McGrath available allows Leinster to go with both James Lowe and Isa Nacewa if needs be. Both men are expected to start, with Nacewa retaining his No.11 jersey from the semis and Lowe coming in for the injured Fergus McFadden on the right wing. Those are both bold calls as Nacewa would be set to face off against the speedster, and semi-final destroyer of Munster, Teddy Thomas. Lowe's defence has been lapse at several times this season but, it must be noted, he was solid in the last eight victory over Saracens.
That leaves Jordan Larmour the unlucky back to miss out, although he should be on the bench and will most likely get a decent stint in the second half at Estadio San Mamés.
Elsewhere, Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose will be paired in midfield again while Rob Kearney will start another European Cup final at fullback. Cian Healy, Sean Cronin and Tadhg Furlong make up the front row while Devin Toner and James Ryan will back them up from the second row.
Jordi Murphy missed the PRO14 loss to Connacht after pulling out, late, with a leg injury but he is expected to wear No.8 and pack down with Scott Fardy and Dan Leavy.
EXPECTED LEINSTER XV
15. Rob Kearney
14. James Lowe
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. Isa Nacewa
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Luke McGrath
1. Cian Healy
2. Sean Cronin
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Devin Toner
5. James Ryan
6. Scott Fardy
7. Dan Leavy
8. Jordi Murphy
Replacements: James Tracy, Jack McGrath, Andrew Porter, Ross Molony, Jack Conan, Nick McCarthy, Joey Carbery, Jordan Larmour.