Leo Cullen has been able to recall the likes of Rhys Ruddock, Dave Kearney and Adam Byrne to the starting XV as his side prepare for the Cheetahs challenge.
The front-row sees a complete overhaul to last weekend’s 59-19 win over the Southern Kings with Peter Dooley, Bryan Byrne, and Michael Bent replacing Ed Byrne, Ronan Kelleher and Andrew Porter.
Byrne and Porter take up places on the bench.
Ross Molony retains his place once more following a fine run of form but is joined by Scott Fardy in the second-row who comes in for Mick Kearney.
Captain Ruddock is at six, with Josh Murphy moving to the bench, while Max Deegan and Caelin Doris continue in the back-row to complete the pack.
Jamison Gibson-Park is back to partner Ross Byrne in the half-backs, with scrum-half Hugh O’Sullivan taking the No 21 jersey for this weekend.
Conor O’Brien switches back to 12 after being at 13 last week and is partnered by Rory O’Loughlin, with Noel Reid heading to the bench.
The back three sees Fergus McFadden go to 11, with Adam Byrne coming in at 14, and Dave Kearney returning at full-back. James Lowe is out of this week’s team while Barry Daly, who was at full-back last weekend, is the 23rd man this time around.
With Leinster’s next game not for another three weeks and the conclusion of the 6 Nations before then Rory O’Loughlin has spoken of his views on the past few weeks.
“It’s a nice way to finish this block. I think there’s been a smaller group around here for the last month probably and a lot of academy lads have gotten to train with us a consistent basis and a good few have got to play with us,” he said.
He also talked about his hopes to finish this block of games on a high.
“I’m looking forward to getting a good crack in front of the home crowd and putting in a bit of a performance,” he said.
While Leinster have already secured a semi-final place thanks to their incredible lead at the top of Conference B, the Cheetahs have named a side in hope of bouncing back into the play-off places in Conference A.
They currently sit in sixth but are only six points off Cardiff in third and will take encouragement in knowing that they defeated Leinster 38-19 in their only previous meeting.
Leinster will be looking to extend their 22-point lead at the top of their conference before heading into this break and have named a strong team to do so, however the Cheetahs will be looking to make it two form two when they face the reigning champions.
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.