Toner back in fray for Leinster’s Benetton clash
Benetton v Leinster, 5.15pm Irish time
Devin Toner has been named to start in Leinster’s team for their Guinness PRO14 opener against Benetton at Stadio Monigo this evening.
In his first competitive appearance since being left out of Ireland’s squad for the Rugby World Cup, the towering Meath man will partner captain Ross Molony in the second row.
Having also featured in the international warm-ups en route to Japan, Dave Kearney and Ross Byrne are selected in a back-line that includes former Wallabies star Joe Tomane.
Amongst the replacements, Harry Byrne (younger brother of Ross) and former Cistercian College Roscrea student Michael Milne are in line to make their debuts for the defending champions.
There will also be Irish interest on the Benetton side, with former Connacht and Munster fly-half Ian Keatley making his competitive debut for the Italians. He has been given the nod ahead of fellow Dubliner Ian McKinley, who made six appearances for Leinster at the beginning of his career.
Despite the loss of 15 players to Italy’s World Cup squad, Blues head coach Leo Cullen expects a formidable challenge from Benetton – who were narrowly defeated by Munster in last season’s quarter-final.
“They’re a very hard team to break down, some big physical men. It’ll be a good challenge for our guys as they still have the guts of their team.
“Irne Herbst, Marco Lazzaroni, Marco Barbini. Ian Keatley is there now, so we’ll see how he goes. Obviously Ian McKinley knows us well.
“It has been a long pre-season and we’ve tried to break it up into different blocks. The guys have worked hard and we’re looking forward to putting it into proper practice now. Everyone wants to get back into competitive games and even watching the World Cup, we’re just keen to get up and running.”
LEINSTER: J O’Brien; A Byrne, R O’Loughlin, J Tomane, D Kearney; R Byrne, J Gibson-Park; P Dooley, R Kelleher, M Bent; R Molony, D Toner; M Deegan, W Connors, C Doris.
Replacements: J Tracy, M Milne, V Abdaladze, J Murphy, S Penny, H O’Sullivan, H Byrne, H Keenan.
BENETTON: A Esposito; R Tavuyara, J Riera, A Sgarbi, M Ioane; I Keatley, L Petrozzi; D Appiah, T Baravalle, M Mancini Parri; I Herbst, E Snyman; M Lazzaroni, M Barbini, T Halafihi.
Replacements: E Makelara, C Traore, F Alongi, N Cannone, G Pettinelli, C Trussardi, I McKinley, L Sperandio.