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Peter O’Mahony’s back for Munster and Ruan Pienaar returns to the Ulster starting line-up, but Leinster will have to cope without Brian O’Driscoll for the second week in succession.
Patently unhappy with his charges following last week’s defeat to Edinburgh, Rob Penney has made five changes to the Munster starting XV for this weekend’s meeting with Gloucester at Thomond Park.
Johne Murphy comes in for the injured Simon Zebo on the wing, while Damien Varley, BJ Botha, Donncha O’Callaghan and captain Peter O’Mahony all come into the pack, with Donnacha Ryan moving to blindside flanker to accommodate O’Callaghan alongside O’Connell in a familiar partnership in the second row.
Matt O’Connor has no such need to tinker with his charges for this week’s clash with Top 14 Champions Castres at the RDS, with Martin Moore, so impressive on his introduction against Ospreys last weekend, coming into the front row instead of the injured Mike Ross.
Brian O’Driscoll remains an absentee, while Ian Madigan, Eoin Reddan and Luke Fitzgerald will all be on the bench for a game in which Fergus McFadden and Kevin McLaughlin will both be making their 100th appearances for the province.
Ruan Pienaar has been promoted to the Ulster starting line-up for the trip to Montpellier tomorrow, coming in at scrum-half instead of Paul Marshall, with Robbie Diack’s introduction the only other change to the team that defeated Leicester last Friday; Roger Wilson will move to number eight to accommodate Diack at blindside flanker.
Finally, Pat Lam has made three changes to the Connacht side that very nearly toppled Saracens at the Sportsground last weekend. James So'oialo comes in instead of Gavin Duffy at full-back, Matt Healy has been named on the wing and Andrew Browne replaces John Muldoon in the back row, after Muldoon picked up a calf injury that will rule him out for the next two months.
Munster team to play Gloucester: Felix Jones; Keith Earls, Casey Laulala, James Downey, Johne Murphy; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Damien Varley, BJ Botha; Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell; Donnacha Ryan, Niall Ronan, Peter O’Mahony (Captain)
Replacements: Mike Sherry, James Cronin, Stephen Archer, James Coughlan, CJ Stander, Cathal Sheridan, JJ Hanrahan, Denis Hurley
Leinster team to play Castres: Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Brendan Macken, Gordon D'Arcy, Dave Kearney; Jimmy Gopperth, Isaac Boss; Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Martin Moore; Devin Toner, Mike McCarthy; Kevin McLaughlin, Sean O'Brien, Jamie Heaslip (Captain)
Replacements: Aaron Dundon, Jack McGrath, Michael Bent, Quinn Roux, Rhys Ruddock, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan, Luke Fitzgerald
Ulster team to play Montpellier: Jared Payne; Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Luke Marshall, Tommy Bowe; Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar; Tom Court, Rory Best, Declan Fitzpatrick; Johann Muller (Captain), Dan Tuohy; Robbie Diack, Chris Henry Roger Wilson
Replacements: Rob Herring, Callum Black, John Afoa, Lewis Stevenson, Iain Henderson, Paul Marshall, Stuart Olding, Micheal Allen
Connacht team to play Zebre: James So'oialo; Danie Poolman, Robbie Henshaw, Craig Ronaldson, Matt Healy; Dan Parks, Kieran Marmion; Brett Wilkinson, Sean Henry, Rodney Ah You; Michael Swift (captain), Craig Clarke; Andrew Browne, Jake Heenan, George Naoupu
Replacements: Jason Harris-Wright, JP Cooney, Ronan Loughney, Aly Muldowney, Mata Fifita, Paul O'Donohoe, Dave McSharry, Gavin Duffy
Heineken Cup fixtures (All games live on Sky Sports)
Zebre v Connacht, Saturday, 1.35pm
Montpellier v Ulster, Saturday, 3.40pm
Leinster v Castres, Saturday, 3.40pm
Munster v Gloucester, Saturday, 6pm
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