The boys in blue have made a number of changes to the team that defeated Munster 13-6 in Thomond Park last weekend, including changing the entire back-line, while a host of Irish internationals come back into the fold.
In the front-row Peter Dooley and Tadhg Furlong line-up either side of hooker Sean Cronin, with Ross Molony and James Ryan slotting in behind them in the second-row.
There is plenty of excitement in the back-row as captain Rhys Ruddock begins as the openside-flanker, with youngsters Will Connors and Max Deegan at openside-flanker and No 8 respectively.
Luke McGrath is partnered by Ciaran Frawley in the half-back pairing, while outside them Joe Tomane makes a welcome return from injury to play alongside Garry Ringrose in midfield.
Dave Kearney comes back in to take up a place on the left-wing, with club veteran Fergus McFadden on the right and Jordan Larmour completes the starting line-up from full-back.
On the bench there is once again a mix of experience and youth as the likes of Ed Byrne and Jamison Gibson-Park are joined by upcoming stars such as Caelan Doris and Harry Byrne.
Speaking ahead of the game second-row Molony is well aware that teams see the RDS as a hard place to win, but knows Connacht will want to get one over on their rivals and has told his teammates that they will need to match the opposition intensity throughout.
“Teams want to come to the RDS and take a scalp off us. Connacht will be highly motivated to win at the RDS and we have to make sure we match that,” he said.
Leinster head into the game looking to maintain their 100% record so far this season with a 10th win on the bounce in the PRO14 and a 14th in a row in all competitions. However, Connacht will hope to cause an upset following their 42-11 thrashing at home to Leinster earlier in the season and will seek revenge, but they will be well aware that it will be no easy task to get a result.
Check Out the Full 23-Man Squad Below.
15. Jordan Larmour (43)
14. Fergus McFadden (181)
13. Garry Ringrose (69)
12. Joe Tomane (18)
11. Dave Kearney (143)
10. Ciarán Frawley (19)
9. Luke McGrath (118)
1. Peter Dooley (70)
2. Seán Cronin (175)
3. Tadhg Furlong (105)
4. Ross Molony (90)
5. James Ryan (35)
6. Rhys Ruddock (166) (c)
7. Will Connors (12)
8. Max Deegan (57)
16. Bryan Byrne (46)
17. Ed Byrne (51)
18. Roman Salanoa (1)
19. Ryan Baird (3)
20. Caelan Doris (26)
21. Jamison Gibson-Park (82)
22. Harry Byrne (5)
23. Cian Kelleher (11)
Munster confirm Zebo signing
This co-funded contract will see Munster’s all-time record try-scorer return from Racing 92 and line out for his home club where he made 144 appearances and scored 60 tries between 2010 and 2018.
In his third season with the Top 14 side, the 31-year-old has played 55 times and scored 21 tries to date.
Head Coach Johann van Graan said, “The opportunity to bring Simon back to Munster came about in early April following a final review of our squad’s budgetary position for season-end and with assistance from the IRFU to support what we believe is a really good deal for Munster and Irish Rugby.
“Simon’s desire to return to Ireland and play with his home club is illustrated by his willingness to sign at a level below his market value elsewhere. This has made bringing the province’s all-time leading try-scorer back home, possible.”
Simon Zebo said, “I am thrilled and honoured to be coming back home to play for Munster. My family and I have been so lucky to have enjoyed three incredible years with Racing 92 in Paris and I cannot thank the team there enough, I really have made friends for life and take with me some brilliant memories.
“However, as everyone knows, Munster holds a very special place in my heart and I’ve always said that I wanted to play for them and potentially Ireland again, so when this opportunity arose the lure of being close to home, family and friends and Munster fans, it outweighed all other options. I cannot wait to get back to the HPC with the team and hopefully a packed Thomond Park.”
Ulster Rugby agree to release Coetzee early
Marcell Coetzee has played his last game for Ulster Rugby.
With back-row, Marcell Coetzee, currently side-lined with a hamstring injury, Ulster Rugby has agreed terms which will see the player released from the club at the end of this month, ahead of his planned departure at the conclusion of the 2020/21 season.
Given the need for several weeks of rehabilitation following the injury sustained by Coetzee in last month’s Guinness PRO14 fixture against Leinster, Ulster Rugby and the player have reached a mutual agreement to part ways on Friday 30 April.
Head of Rugby Operations and Recruitment, Bryn Cunningham, said: “We have come to an agreement that will allow Marcell the time and space required to continue his rehab.
Lowry retained at 10 for Ulster v Zebre
21-year-old, Cormac Izuchukwu will make his first start for the Ulster men as he is named in the second row alongside Kieran Treadwell. Marty Moore comes back into the starting front row at tighthead, with Eric O’Sullivan and John Andrew retaining their starting berths at loosehead and hooker. Jordi Murphy will captain the side at openside flanker, with Sean Reidy and David McCann being retained at blindside and Number Eight.
A youthful back line sees Ethan McIlroy coming into the back three at full-back, with Rob Lyttle on the left wing and Robert Baloucoune returning on the right. Stewart Moore and James Hume will make up the midfield pairing, while John Cooney and Michael Lowry are named at half-back.
Brad Roberts, Callum Reid, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor and Matty Rea are the forward reinforcements, with David Shanahan, Ian Madigan and Ben Moxham providing the back line options on the bench.
Ulster team to play Zebre Rugby, Guinness PRO14 Round 16, Friday 19 March at Kingspan Stadium (kick-off 8.15pm, live on Premier Sports / eir Sport):
(15-9) Ethan McIlroy, Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Stewart Moore, Rob Lyttle, Michael Lowry, John Cooney;
(1-8) Eric O’Sullivan, John Andrew, Marty Moore, Cormac Izuchukwu, Kieran Treadwell, Sean Reidy, Jordy Murphy (Capt.), David McCann.
Replacements: Brad Roberts, Callum Reid, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Matty Rea, David Shanahan, Ian Madigan, Ben Moxham.