Leinster set to start Connors in Champions Cup final against Toulouse

leinster set to start connors in champions cup final against toulouse

Will Connors with Dan Sheehan.

LEINSTER ARE SET to hand Will Connors their number seven shirt for Saturday’s Champions Cup final against Toulouse in London.

The Kildare man has started two of Leinster’s games in the competition so far, both against La Rochelle, with former World Rugby player of the year Josh van der Flier starting the other five matches at openside, but Connors could get the nod this time.

Head coach Leo Cullen and senior coach Jacques Nienaber have had a few other intriguing selection decisions to consider for this clash with Toulouse.

Jimmy O’Brien’s return to fitness in recent weeks means he has been pushing for a place in the back three, but Jordan Larmour now looks likely to retain his place on the right wing after performing strongly there throughout the campaign.

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Larmour is set to make up the back three with fit-again fullback Hugo Keenan and influential left wing James Lowe. Indeed, O’Brien may miss out on the matchday 23 if Leinster go for a 6/2 split of forwards and backs on their bench.

It’s expected that the final has come too soon for Garry Ringrose, who has been sidelined with a shoulder injury in recent months, meaning Robbie Henshaw and Jamie Osborne are set to continue as the midfield partnership. Jamison Gibson-Park and Ross Byrne are expected to be at numbers nine and 10 again.

The front row of Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, and Tadhg Furlong has been excellent for Leinster, who face an interesting call in the second row.

The experienced James Ryan returned from several months on the sidelines in last weekend’s URC defeat to Ulster, looking physically sharp, but Leinster seem likely to use him off the bench against Toulouse.

That might help Leinster to have more impact in the final quarter which is expected to be tight. With Ryan likely to be used off the bench, Leinster have had to choose between Ross Molony and Jason Jenkins alongside Joe McCarthy in the starting second row.

Jenkins started the quarter-final win against La Rochelle but Molony came into the team for the semi-final win over Northampton and is highly regarded for his leadership of the lineout, which will be a pivotal battleground again this weekend. Those skills could see Molony start against Toulouse.

With Connors set to be at number seven, it’s expected that Ryan Baird and Caelan Doris will complete the starting back row.

Cian Healy, Rónan Kelleher, and Michael Ala’alatoa look sure to be the front row replacements.

If Leinster opt for a 6/2 split, that would see Jack Conan and van der Flier both included, with scrum-half Luke McGrath and the versatile Ciarán Frawley favourites to take the two backs slots.

If Leinster were to go for a 5/3 split to include a third back like O’Brien, that would mean one of Conan or van der Flier missing out on the matchday squad. That seems a little unthinkable so a 6/2 surely makes more sense.

Leinster will officially name their matchday 23 at midday on Friday.

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