Despite already being assured of top spot in the pool Cullen has named an experienced side full of stars in order to try and claim a win which will see them go into the knock-out stages as the top seeded side.
The only surprises in the team are that both Max Deegan and Caelan Doris have been handed a chance to start the game, while in the backs Luke McGrath has been handed the role of captain.
Elsewhere, Cian Healy and Andrew Porter are either side of hooker Sean Cronin in the front-row. Cronin will hope to put in a good shift after being snubbed in Ireland’s Six Nations squad announcement this week, while Devin Toner and James Ryan slot in behind them in second-row.
Deegan shifts from No 8 to take up a place as blindside-flanker, with Josh van der Flier remaining on the openside and Doris comes in as the No 8 this time around in what is an exciting back-row.
McGrath is joined in the half-backs by Ross Byrne, and they have Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose outside them in the centre.
James Lowe continues on the left-wing, with Dave Kearney hoping to continue his fine form on the right, while Jordan Larmour is once again at full-back to complete the XV.
There is a huge amount of experience on the bench too for Cullen to call upon if needed with the likes of Tadhg Furlong, Rhys Ruddock, Jamison Gibson-Park and Rob Kearney among the replacements.
Speaking ahead of the game Lowe is wary of the threat that the Italian outfit have and believes that the results aren’t a fair showing for their performances so far this season.
“Their results probably don’t reflect the season they’ve had. They’ve been so, so close on so many occasions in the PRO14 and the Champions Cup. We’re under no illusion the threats that they do pose. It’s, for a lot of them the last chance to put their hand up before the Six Nations as well. So there’s a lot of individuals in that environment who will want to prove a point,” he said.
Leinster head into the game as clear favourites to make it 16 wins on the bounce and know that a win will seal them the top seeding heading into the quarter-finals. However, they will need to overcome a Benetton side that will be hoping to end their European campaign on a high.
Check Out the Full 23-Man Squad Below.
15. Jordan Larmour (45)
14. Dave Kearney (145)
13. Garry Ringrose (71)
12. Robbie Henshaw (43)
11. James Lowe (40)
10. Ross Byrne (83)
9. Luke McGrath (120) (c)
1. Cian Healy (215)
2. Seán Cronin (177)
3. Andrew Porter (61)
4. Devin Toner (243)
5. James Ryan (36)
6. Max Deegan (59)
7. Josh van der Flier (79)
8. Caelan Doris (28)
16. James Tracy (105)
17. Peter Dooley (72)
18. Tadhg Furlong (107)
19. Ross Molony (92)
20. Rhys Ruddock (168)
21. Jamison Gibson-Park (84)
22. Ciarán Frawley (21)
23. Rob Kearney (216)
Saracens Face EPCR Misconduct Hearing
Saracens are set to face yet another hearing but this time it’s on the European front
Saracens are set to face a misconduct hearing with the EPCR today at 18 00 the European Rugby body have confirmed.
The reigning Champions Cup holders are in trouble after they informed officials earlier in the week that they may have fielded an ineligible player during their Champions Cup win over Racing 92 last month which sealed them a quarter-final place.
The player in question is Titi Lamositele, who came off the bench in the 60th minute of the clash against the Top 14 side. It is understood that when the squad was announced for the game that the player was eligible.
However, his work permit did in fact expire on January 18th, with the game taking place on the 19th, which could have caused a breach in the disciplinary rules.
It is the latest blow in what has been a dramatic season to date for the Premiership outfit, who were found to have breached salary cap regulations in the competition and being fined and docked points before being relegated outright last month.
They were docked further points recently to ensure that they will finish the season in last place in the Premiership.
While on the European front they have already caused problems for the EPCR by failing to show up to the competition’s opening event.
Despite all the drama they have managed to progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup and will face last season’s beaten finalists Leinster away from home, but it remains to be seen what their latest punishment could be if found guilty.
Ireland Tie Star Down with New Contract
Ireland have confirmed that one of their key men has committed his future to both the national side and his province
Ireland lock James Ryan has signed a new three-year deal with the IRFU which expires at the end of the 2022/23 season.
The 23-year-old has starred for both Ireland and Leinster since his debut for both in 2017, becoming a key player and leader on the pitch and he is excited to continue on both fronts.
“I’m delighted to sign an IRFU contract. A lot has been packed into the start of my professional career with both Ireland and Leinster and there has been some great success and a few disappointments, but I’m involved in two very exciting squads that want to be challenging for trophies,” he said.
Having made the step into test rugby at only 20, Ryan adapted quickly and has gone on to add 24-caps to his name, including playing a main role in Ireland’s Six Nations Grand Slam success in 2018, as well as standing out in their Rugby World Cup campaign last year.
IRFU high performance director David Nucifora believes that despite already being a key figure for both his teams Ryan will only continue to get better.
“James is still a young man but he has delivered consistent high level performances for both Ireland and Leinster. He is growing into a leadership role with the national team and has a big future for both Ireland and Leinster,” he said.
For his province Ryan has made a total of 37 appearances and has tasted success since his first game in 2017, while before his professional career kicked-off he captained Ireland U20’s to the World Rugby Championship final in 2016.
His new contract also sees him move from a provincial deal to centrally funded one, much like Connacht ace Bundee Aki, who agreed similar terms to Ryan back in November.
It is a massive boost for both club and country as they look to triumph on several fronts in the coming years.
However, up first for Ryan is a clash with current Grand Slam holders Wales on Saturday in the second round of this year’s Six Nations championship, where he will be hoping to help the boys in green to a second win in a row following their opening round victory over Scotland.
Munster Complete Trio of Signings
Munster have confirmed the arrival of three new players for the 2020/21 season, in what is a major boost for the Irish province
Munster have announced the signing of three players in the form of Matt Gallagher, Damien de Allende and RG Snyman.
The trio have all signed two-year deals with the southern Irish province keeping them at the club until June 2022 at least.
Both players starred in that World Cup win, playing throughout the tournament, and both are currently playing in the Japanese Top League.
Meanwhile Gallagher joins from Saracens following their recent relegation from the English Premiership after their breaches of the salary cap relegations. He joined the club at 14 and after nine years will add some fresh blood to the Munster ranks.
Speaking on the signings Munster head coach Johann van Graan is delighted to have bolstered the options in the squad as they look to improve next season after already being knocked-out of the Champions Cup this season.
“From a business point of view, I’m really pleased that Munster has secured the calibre of these players. In terms of Damian and RG, it’s testament to the worldwide standing of this club that two World Cup-winning Springboks will arrive here next summer. On a personal level, I know them both very well and in addition to being world-class athletes they are great men. They will add value to everything we are striving to achieve at Munster and I know our supporters will be eagerly looking forward to their arrival. Equally, getting Matt on board is fantastic for our backline options. He is an exciting young talent that can play in a number of positions and is from a great rugby pedigree,” he said.
Munster fans will be delighted with the incomings and it should help them progress further on the European stage from next season as well as bringing them closer to competing for domestic honours too.
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