Leinster Rugby’s outstanding form in the Heineken Champions Cup so far this season is reflected by the selection of 12 of their players for Ireland as they take on England at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday for the chance to claim the Six Nations Championship, Triple Crown and a fourth Grand Slam.
Centre Robbie Henshaw, scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park and lock Ryan Baird are recalled to join nine of their team-mates, who dominated Pool A, securing four bonus-point victories to clinch a home Round of 16 tie at the same venue against Ulster Rugby on April 1.
EPCR and World Player of the Year Josh van der Flier will win his 50th cap on Saturday in an unchanged back row also featuring team-mate No.8 Caelan Doris, who has been passed fit, and Munster Rugby flanker Peter O’Mahony.
The all-Leinster front row of hooker Dan Sheehan plus props Andrew Porter and Tadhg Furlong stays the same too, with Sheehan having passed a fitness check.
However, Baird replaces injured Ulster lock Iain Henderson and will link up with Leinster colleague James Ryan in the second row.
Gibson-Park has a Leinster partner at half-back as well in captain Johnny Sexton, while Henshaw joins Leinster full-back Hugo Keenan and wing James Lowe in the backs.
Familiar foes meet again… ⚔️@leinsterrugby's @JohnnySexton is in line to become #SixNations top points scorer for @IrishRugby 👏
While @Saracens' @owen_faz is back starting at 10 for @EnglandRugby 👀
Who comes out on top?? pic.twitter.com/plJEiTXfPJ
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) March 16, 2023
For England, Saracens fly-half Owen Farrell returns to captain the side and is one of three players named by Steve Borthwick in the starting XV from the three-time Heineken Champions Cup winners, who entertain Ospreys in the Round of 16. Lock Maro Itoje and hooker Jamie George are the others.
Harlequins No.8 Alex Dombrandt is named in the back row alongside Stade Toulousain flanker Jack Willis. They are set to travel to DHL Stormers on April 1 and host Vodacom Bulls on April 2 respectively.
Leicester Tigers, who welcome Edinburgh Rugby in the Round of 16 on March 31, have three representatives in the England XV – all in the backs. Jack van Poortvliet lines up at scrum-half, with wing Anthony Watson and full-back Freddie Steward in the back three.
Meanwhile, Exeter Chiefs’ Henry Slade is retained at outside centre. His club play host to Montpellier Hérault Rugby in the Round of 16 on April 2.