Leinster Rugby have named 10 internationals in their starting XV for the clash at fellow Heineken Champions Cup side Ospreys in the United Rugby Championship (URC) on Saturday.
Flanker Rhys Ruddock comes into the team and will captain the four-time winners of EPCR’s leading competition in the absence of the injured Johnny Sexton, with the Irish province’s bench featuring a further four internationals.
With Sexton out, Harry Byrne steps into fly-half for his first start of the season in Leinster’s final URC match before their third Heineken Champions Cup Pool A game next weekend, which will see them attempt to make it three wins from three when they face Gloucester Rugby on January 14.
Alongside Byrne, there are further changes amongst the backs: Hugo Keenan comes in at full-back, with Jamie Osborne stepping in at centre, Jimmy O’Brien starting at wing and Cormac Foley at scrum-half.
There’s also plenty of rotation in the pack. Cian Healy and Dan Sheehan come into the front row, with Ross Molony, Ruddock and Scott Penny also coming into the scrum. Jack Conan starts at number eight.
Ospreys themselves make eight changes – wing Mat Protheroe, full-back Cai Evans and scrum-half Reuben Morgan-Williams come into the backs, while the pack sees rotation too with Nicky Smith and Tomas Francis playing at prop either side of hooker Dewi Lake. Lock Rhys Davies and number eight Morgan Morris start as well. The Welsh region, seventh in Pool B, host Montpellier Hérault Rugby on January 14 in their next Heineken Champions Cup match.
Meanwhile, Leinster’s fellow Irish province Ulster Rugby will also be in URC action on Saturday, with wing Robert Baloucoune set for his 50th appearance for the Pool B side when they take on Benetton Rugby.
Other Heineken Champions Cup sides in URC action include Edinburgh Rugby, who host Zebre Parma with a bolstered pack as Dave Cherry and Nick Haining return.
The Cell C Sharks are in action and travel to Ireland to face Connacht Rugby, making a load of changes to keep the squad fresh ahead of round three of the Heineken Champions Cup pool stage: they face Union Bordeaux-Begles on January 14.
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— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) January 6, 2023
Sunday will also see South African’s DHL Stormers in action – they face Glasgow Warriors in Scotland.
The Gallagher English Premiership also throws up some exciting fixtures for Heineken Champions Cup sides on Saturday.
Exeter Chiefs host the Northampton Saints with Exeter second in Pool A. They welcome back hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie who will also captain the side against the Saints, bottom of Pool B, who will be boosted by the return of Courtnall Skosan to the XV.
Meanwhile Leicester Tigers, third in Pool B, travel to Newcastle Falcons. Harry Simmons makes his first start in the league ahead of Leicester’s third Heineken Champions Cup 2022/23 match at Clermont Auvergne on January 13.
Sunday will see London Irish and Bristol Bears clash, with Harlequins also hosting Sale Sharks.
Meanwhile, Heineken Champions Cup clubs in the TOP14 also face domestic action this weekend before their matches in EPCR’s leading competition next week. They include the 2022 Heineken Champions Cup winners La Rochelle hosting Stade Toulousain on Saturday, the two first and second in Pool B respectively.
Other games on Saturday sees Bordeaux host Aviron Bayonnais, Clermont welcome USAP, Lyon travel to Section Paloise and Castres Olympique face Stade Français Paris away from home. Sunday sees Montpellier face off against Racing 92.