Johnny Sexton has returned following time out with an injury and captains the team from fly-half.
Cian Healy, Sean Cronin and Tadhg Furlong begin the game in the front-row, while Devin Toner and James Ryan pair up in the second-row in what is an outstanding front five.
Rhys Ruddock is at six, Sean O’Brien at seven and Jack Conan is at No 8 to make up the remainder of the pack.
Luke McGrath is back at scrum-half to partner Sexton, while Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose team up in the centre.
James Lowe starts on the left-wing, Jordan Larmour on the right, and Rob Kearney will open the game at full-back in what is a star-studded XV.
The bench is full of talent to call upon too if needed. James Tracy, Ed Byrne and Michael Bent are the front-row replacements, with Scott Fardy and Max Deegan covering the rest of the pack. Fardy’s inclusion coupled with Lowe starting means that Jamison Gibson-Park misses out. In his place is Hugh O’Sullivan, who is joined by Ross Byrne and Rory O’Loughlin among the replacements.
Scrum-half McGrath is expecting a huge game and has been impressed by Toulouse since their second of two previous meetings this season, he admitted while speaking to the Irish Times.
“Toulouse have improved as well. That quarter-final in Racing was incredibly impressive, the way they handled the red card, bringing [Sébastien] Bézy on [at scrumhalf], moving [Antoine] Dupont to ‘10’. They’re a class outfit so, it’s going to be a great challenge,” he said.
Toulouse will head into the game in a confident mood as they hope to dethrone the reigning champions in their own backyard.
Clement Castres, Peato Mauvaka and Charlie Faumuina are the front-three, with Richie Arnold and Richie Gray at four and five respectively.
Rynhard Elstadt is at blindside flanker, with Joe Tekori at openside and Jerome Kaino taking the No 8 shirt.
It’s an exciting back-line too as Sebastien Bezy and Antoine Dupont pair up in the half-backs, with Pita Ahki and Sofiane Guitoune outside them in the centre pairing.
The electric Cheslin Kolbe is at 11, with Yoann Huget at 14 and Thomas Ramos occupying the 15 jersey.
The visitors have plenty of talent on the bench with the likes of Cyril Baille, Romain Ntamack and Maxime Medard among the replacements ready to put in a shift when called upon.
Both sides are at their strongest possible and that has led to some interesting individual fights across the pitch.
James Ryan vs Richie Gray = This is one of the most exciting aspects of the game, two of the best locks around going head-to-head. Both are immense at the break-down, and leaders for their respective sides. Whoever comes out on top here will put their team on the front foot and could send their side through to the final.
Jack Conan vs Jerome Kaino = Here is a chance for Jack Conan to continue his rise to the top as he faces one of the best in the business. Conan put in a man of the match performance in the quarter-finals against Ulster and will need a similar performance to keep Kaino at bay. On the other hand, Kaino will need to keep an eye out for Conan’s ability to pick and go. This will be a seriously physical clash and these two will be key to it.
James Lowe vs Cheslin Kolbe = Yes they may be on opposite wings but they are the two sides biggest threats going forward. Lowe will face veteran Huget on his wing while Kolbe comes up against the dancing feet of Larmour. Not only will these two need to be at their best going forward but will need to be solid defensively. You can’t take your eye off either one for a second or they will tear your team apart and if the pair get going we could witness greatness on the flanks.
As both these sides look to add a record fifth European title to their name the stakes couldn’t be higher and with all the cards laid we seem set for a cracker on Sunday.
Leinster Star Considering Options as IRFU Talks Continue
Leinster could be set to lose another club legend with the IRFU playing hardball on a new contract
The Ireland and Leinster full-back was missing from Leo Cullen’s list of blues players that have signed new contracts ahead of next season.
Kearney’s manager Dave McHugh has confirmed that discussions are continuing with the IRFU and that the player would like to remain with Leinster.
“Discussions are ongoing with Leinster and the IRFU. We had hoped to have reached a conclusion by now. The discussion is live and open. But it has led us to check other options. We are still hopeful of reaching an agreement with the IRFU and Leinster,” he said.
It is believed that at least two French teams are weighing up the signature of Kearney, where he would earn a massive salary compared to his current contract with McHugh admitting that the money has a part to play.
“The IRFU has made Rob an offer. But if I am honest, it is well below where it needs to be – well below. It has been a little protracted. We are struggling to get it to a point where it makes sense for him,” he added.
At 33, Kearney is nearing the twilight of his glittering career but both he and McHugh want him to continue playing while he is still well able.
“It is Rob’s goal to continue playing rugby while he is fit and healthy and well. He is a starter both for his country and for his province. We need it to make sense for him. We appreciate there is an end point to his rugby playing career. But it isn’t yet,” he said.
With 21 contracts being announced yesterday McHugh explained that Kearney was absent as there isn’t the same urgency in his talks as there has been with other players.
“Rob is contracted to the end of the World Cup, so I guess we’re not in the same rush that Leinster were to announce their 21 new contracts for the start of next season. He wouldn’t return to the province until after the World Cup, so there isn’t the same urgency from our perspective,” he concluded.
Kearney’s future has been under much speculation for some time now and there was fuel added to the fire when teammate Sean O’Brien posted a possible farewell message on his Instagram.
O’Brien himself leaves for London Irish come the end of the season and unless the IRFU budge in Kearney’s discussions it appears as though Leinster could lose yet another one of their most decorated players.
Leinster and Ireland Star Signs New Contract
One of Ireland’s key men has signed a new two-year deal with the IRFU
The prop is one of the country’s most consistent performers and is delighted to have the opportunity to continue representing both province and country.
“Pulling on a Leinster or an Ireland jersey is something that I have always taken a huge amount of pride in and I am thankful for every opportunity I get. I am delighted therefore to have extended my IRFU contract and to continue to line out for Leinster. I believe that we have built something special at Leinster and with the national team and I want to contribute as best I can to both teams in what will be a hugely exciting few months and years ahead,” he said.
Healy has faced a number of serious injuries over the years but has thanked everyone at club and national level for their support and looks forward to the future with both.
“There has been some difficult times over the last few years for me personally with injury but the support within the Leinster and the Irish rugby family was very humbling from fellow players, coaches and supporters and it’s something that I won’t forget. It made this decision all the easier knowing that I was part of something bigger than just a rugby team. I hope to play my part in helping Leinster and Ireland achieve further success over the next few years and I’m looking forward to the next chapter in that journey,” he added.
Having been capped by Ireland 88 times since his debut in 2009 and holding 207 Leinster caps to his name already Healy is almost ever-present and IRFU Performance Director David Nucifora paid tribute to his consistency.
“Cian is performing at a very high level week in and week out. He works incredibly hard in ensuring that he is physically in the best condition to perform and has bounced back from adversity to return to the top of the international and club game. He will continue to be a leading performer for Ireland and Leinster over the coming years,” he said.
Healy has represented Ireland at two World Cups (2011 and 2015) and will be hoping to be heading to a third in Japan later this year, he also represented the British and Irish Lions in 2013.
As well as that Healy has a host of winner’s medals to his name with three Six Nations Championships in the bag for Ireland, while with Leinster he has won four European Cups, three Guinness Pro titles and a Challenge Cup.
Connacht Receive Planning Permission for Stadium Redevelopment
Connacht have announced that the Sportsground’s redevelopment has been given the all-clear and will have a couple of new features
Connacht Rugby have been granted planning permission for the €30 million redevelopment of the Sportsground and it will some new features.
The land is owned by the Irish Greyhound Board and will include a new greyhound racing track once complete along with a new high-performance centre.
Speaking on the redevelopment Connacht’s chief executive Willie Ruane admitted he is delighted that everything had been passed.
“There has been huge momentum behind the project since we announced last October, and we now have the final granting of planning permission. With 130 people employed throughout the province by Connacht Rugby we are extremely proud of the annual contribution of €34.4 million we are making to the regional economy,” he said
The new stadium will also have a 12,000-seat capacity, with two stands on either touchline and terrace areas behind the try-lines.
The club secured €10 million in private funding between its own funds and an approved bank credit facility. Ruane confirmed that without the State providing the other €20 million the project cannot continue.
“We have €10m in private funding to bring to the table through a mixture of Connacht Rugby funds and an approved bank credit facility. The project is now shovel ready and the remaining €20m state investment is critical to its delivery,” he added.
The redevelopment would be a massive boost to the club who are progressing season by season and have secured Champions Cup rugby for next season. It is also positive news for the Galway area as a whole as it continues to grow in popularity among tourists and this will only add to the attraction.
Isles Up to Williams Challenge
Leinster vs Glasgow; Pro 14 Final Preview & Key Battles
Pro 14 Dream Team Announced
“Awful, actually terrible” – Fitzgerald blasts one Ireland star.
WATCH: How did this hit from Tuilagi go unnoticed & unpunished?
The Low-down on Ulster’s New Signings
Pro144 days ago
Ulster confirm signing of new Out-Half.
Pro142 days ago
Munster launch new Jerseys and Twitter doesn’t seem to like them.
International1 week ago
Former Scottish International Retires at Just 31
Top 141 week ago
Former France Full-Back Retires at 33
Rugby Transfer Rumours1 week ago
South African Star Heading for Japan
Premiership2 days ago
WATCH: Move over Danny Cipriani, Francois Hougaard throws a flatter pill.
Pro144 days ago
Leinster Set to be Without Key Man for Pro 14 Final
Pro143 days ago
Leinster Confirm 21 New Contracts but One Man Still Hasn’t Signed