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Leinster Rugby vs Ulster Rugby
Pro14 Grand Final
Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Saturday, 12th September 2020, 19:35

Live on Eir Sports/TG4

Leinster take on Ulster tomorrow looking to become the first team in tournament history to win it three times on the bounce.

It would be a fitting reward for a team who've been unbeaten throughout the whole season and they're twelve point favourites with the bookies. However it's fair to say next week's Heineken Cup quarter-final against Saracens is taking precedence in Leinster's minds as they've opted to leave skipper Johnny Sexton plus Luke McGrath and Will Connors on the bench this week. So they could be open to accusations of disrespecting the tournament and you can be damn sure Ulster will be using it for motivation.

Ulster have largely been in terrible form since the return to play four weeks ago. They were poor in their first two games back when they lost to Connacht and Leinster. They went into last week's semi-final away to Edinburgh as underdogs and the match seemed to be going to form as they trailed 19-7 early in the second half. However the introduction of scrum-half Alby Mathewson for the out-of-sorts John Cooney at half-time seemed to spark them into life. They didn't do anything spectacular in their comeback, their two second half tries came from lineout mauls and then Ian Madigan converted two fine kicks to complete the comeback. But they did show some character to come back in a game that Edinburgh really should have been out of sight at that stage of.

Ulster have been given a massive boost with the unexpected news that their skipper Iain Henderson is fit to start in the second row alongside Alan O'Connor. Eric O'Sullivan, Rob Herring, and Tom O'Toole keep their places in the front row. In the backrow Sean Reidy comes in to start at openside alongside Matthew Rea and Marcell Coetzee. In the backs the most eye-catching call is Alby Mathewson starting ahead of John Cooney at scrum-half but given Cooney's form since the restart, it's no great shock. Billy Burns retains the number 10 jersey and Stuart McCloskey and James Hume stay in the centre. Michael Lowry comes in to start at fullback which means Jacob Stockdale switches to the left wing and Rob Lyttle starts on the right. Interestingly most of the recent high profile Leinster players who have switched to Ulster Jack McGrath, Marty Moore, Jordi Murphy plus Cooney and Madigan all have to make due with a place on the bench tomorrow.

Leinster have also been boosted by the return of their star second row from injury. James Ryan is named to start alongside Devin Toner with Scott Fardy demoted to the bench. The return of Josh van der Flier is the only other change to the pack. In the backine Ross Byrne and Jamison Gibson-Park start at half-back and Garry Ringrose captains the team for the first time.

Last week's game against Munster was a grim affair dominated by box kicking. It was also dominated by the whistle of referee Andrew Brace who's refereeing of the breakdown led to Leinster kicking so much once they had established a lead. Brace's eagerness to penalise the attacking team at the ruck makes building phases quite difficult and Leinster would have given a collective groan when he was announced as the referee for the final.

Ulster will be looking back to the European quarter-final from last season when they came to the Aviva and gave Leinster a hell of a scare. That day their pack took the fight to Leinster with the likes of Henderson and Coetzee leading the way. If they can produce something similar tomorrow then it could be interesting but Leinster should still be strong enough to win a fourth final in three seasons.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Ulster Rugby
Teams Jordan Larmour 15 Michael Lowry
Hugo Keenan 14 Rob Lyttle
Garry Ringrose (C)
13 James Hume
Robbie Henshaw 12 Stuart McCloskey
James Lowe 11 Jacob Stockdale
Ross Byrne 10 Billy Burns
Jamison Gibson-Park 9 Alby Mathewson

Cian Healy 1 Eric O'Sullivan
Ronan Kelleher 2 Rob Herring
Andrew Porter 3 Tom O'Toole
Devin Toner 4 Alan O'Connor
James Ryan 5 Iain Henderson (C)
Caelan Doris 6 Matthew Rea
Josh van der Flier 7 Sean Reidy
Jack Conan 8 Marcell Coetzee

Replacements James Tracy 16 John Andrew
Ed Byrne 17 Jack McGrath
Michael Bent 18 Marty Moore
Scott Fardy 19 Sam Carter
Will Connors 20 Jordi Murphy
Luke McGrath 21 John Cooney
Johnny Sexton 22 Ian Madigan
Rory O'Loughlin 23 Nick Timoney

Not Considered
due to Injury
Fergus McFadden,
Dan Leavy,
Vakh Abdaladze,
Conor O'Brien,
Peter Dooley,
Adam Byrne,
Dave Kearney,
Tadhg Furlong

Robert Baloucoune,
Luke Marshall,
Will Addison
Officials Referee: Andrew Brace (IRFU),
Assistant referees: George Clancy (IRFU), Frank Murphy (IRFU),
TMO: Brian MacNeice (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2020-09-11