RaboDirect PRO12 semi-final preview: Leinster host Ulster at the RDS

Last Updated: 16/05/14 1:10pm

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Leinster play in a fifth successive home play-off on Saturday, with rivals Ulster making the trip to the Royal Dublin Society ground.

Leinster's solitary defeat in their last 12 PRO12 matches came on a visit to Ospreys in round 19.

Leinster were the only side to remain undefeated at home in the competition this season, their last PRO12 defeat at the RDS coming at the hands of Ulster in March 2013.

Ulster have reached the semi-finals in three of the last four seasons, but their only victory came last season at home to the Scarlets.

The Ulstermen have won just two of their last five PRO12 outings but have beaten a fellow Irish province on their own soil in four of the last five regular season matches they have played.

Leinster have won their last three matches against Ulster including last year's final played at the RDS.

Head coach Matt O'Connor has made eight changes to the Leinster side that beat Edinburgh in the final weekend of regular season action.

Jack McGrath, the injured Richardt Strauss and Mike Ross all make way as Cian Healy, Sean Cronin and Martin Moore all come in, while Devin Toner and Quinn Roux come into the pack at the expense of Leo Cullen and Mike McCarthy.

Winning note

In the back row, Rhys Ruddock and Shane Jennings replace Sean O'Brien and Jordi Murphy, while Jamie Heaslip - who captains the side from No 8 - is the only forward to have retained his spot from last week.

The lone change to the backline sees Eoin Reddan start at scrum-half having recovered from a shoulder injury, while Brian O'Driscoll is set for his final bow at the RDS.

"It would be amazing to finish for him on a winning note," centre Fergus McFadden told the club's website.

"For me personally as well, all these opportunities are few and far between in your career and you've just got to try and get as much silverware as possible when you get the opportunity."

Meanwhile, Rory Best and Ruan Pienaar have recovered from injury in time to join Mark Anscombe's squad.

They are two of 11 internationals in the team and two of 13 changes to the side that beat Munster at Thomond Park last weekend.

Craig Gilroy retains the full-back jersey and is joined in the back three by Tommy Bowe and IRUPA Players' Player of the year, Andrew Trimble, while Jared Payne and Darren Payne team up in the midfield once more.

Paddy Jackson gets the nod at fly-half and will form a familiar axis partnership with the returning Pienaar.

Up front, Callum Black is retained at loosehead, with Best starting the game at hooker and Ricky Lutton back in the front row, ahead of captain Johann Muller, who starts in the second row alongside Iain Henderson.

Leinster: 15 R Kearney; 14 McFadden, 13 O'Driscoll, 12 D'Arcy, 11 D Kearney; 10 Gopperth, 9 Reddan; 1 Healy, 2 Cronin, 3 Moore; 4 Toner, 5 Roux; 6 Ruddock, 7 Jennings, 8 Heaslip (capt).

Replacements: 16 Dundon, 17 McGrath, 18 Ross, 19 Cullen, 20 O'Brien, 21 Boss, 22 Madigan, 23 Kirchner.

Ulster: 15 Gilroy; 14 Bowe, 13 Payne, 12 Cave, 11 Trimble; 10 Jackson, 9 Pienaar; 1 Black, 2 Best, 3 Lutton; 4 Muller (capt), 5 Henderson, 6 Diack, 7 Henry, 8 Wilson.

Replacements: 16 Herring, 17 Warwick, 18 Macklin, 19 Tuohy, 20 Doyle, 21 P Marshall, 22 McKinney, 23 L Marshall.

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