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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Mark Donlon

Johnny Sexton set to start for Leinster in New Year's Day clash against Connacht

Leinster are set to welcome Johnny Sexton back into the fold for Sunday's United Rugby Championship interpro clash against Connacht.

Leinster's talisman returns to reclaim the No.10 jersey from Ross Byrne who has been given the night off having played in every game so far this season.

Jamison Gibson-Park also returns to the starting line-up and he and Sexton will make up the half-back pairing against the Westerners.

READ MORE: Door open to Ireland selection for Connacht's John Porch after disappointment of Wallabies snub

Sexton will captain a side that displays 13 changes from last Monday's win over Munster, with Jordan Larmour and Ryan Baird the only players who have kept their places.

Tadhg Furlong remains sidelined with an ankle injury. The tighthead prop has missed the last three games after sustaining the injury during Leinster's win over Ulster in early December.

Larmour starts on the right wing and Jimmy O'Brien and Rob Russell are included in the back three, while Charlie Ngatai and Liam Turner together constitute a new centre pairing.

A new-look front row contains Rónan Kelleher in between Michael Milne and Michael Ala'alatoa while Brian Deeny starts for the first time this season in the second row alongside James Ryan.

Connacht are struggling with available personnel heading into this clash, with Finlay Bealham, Mack Hansen and Bundee Aki the most notable absentees.

Aki is rested, while Hansen, Bealham and Josh Murphy are all ruled out due to illness.

A foot injury rules Adam Byrne out but former Leinster duo Peter Dooley and David Hawkshaw both start.

Dooley slots into an overhauled front row next to Dave Heffernan and Dominic Robertson McCoy, while the second row is made up of brothers Darragh and Niall Murray.

Jarrad Butler and Shamus Hurley Langton join Cian Prendergast in the back row.

Caolin Blade and Jack Carty once again join forces as the half-back duo.

Elsewhere, Hawkshaw partners Tom Farrell in the centre and Hansen's spot on the wing is set to be filled by Diarmuid Kilgallen.

Leinster: Jimmy O'Brien; Jordan Larmour, Liam Turner, Charlie Ngatai, Rob Russell; Johnny Sexton, Jamison Gibson Park; Michael Milne, Rónan Kelleher, Michael Ala'alatoa; Brian Deeny, James Ryan; Ryan Baird, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.

Replacements: John McKee, Marcus Hanan, Vakhtang Abdaladze, Alex Soroka, Scott Penny, Cormac Foley, Harry Byrne, Jamie Osborne

Connacht: Tiernan O'Halloran; Diarmuid Kilgallen, Tom Farrell, David Hawkshaw, John Porch; Jack Carty, Caolin Blade; Peter Dooley, Dave Heffernan, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Darragh Murray, Niall Murray, Cian Prendergast, Shamus Hurley-Langton, Jarrad Butler.

Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Denis Buckley, Sam Illo, Oisin Dowling, Conor Oliver, Kieran Marmion, Tom Daly, Byron Ralston


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