Van der Flier to make 100th Leinster appearance at Dragons
October 1, 2021 / Marcus Ó Buachalla
The Leinster Rugby team, proudly sponsored by Bank of Ireland, to take on Dragons on Sunday at Rodney Parade has been named by head coach Leo Cullen (KO 2pm – live on RTÉ, Premier Sports, S4C, URC TV and RTÉ Radio).
It is a relatively settled side for Cullen this week with only a few changes to the team that accounted for the Vodacom Bulls in the Round 1 fixture last weekend at Aviva Stadium.
There are a number of milestone moments for players on Sunday with Josh van der Flier winning his 100th cap for the province and lock James Ryan captaining the club for the first time. Academy back Rob Russell is also set to make his debut after being named on the wing.
There is also a welcome competitive return from long-term injury for a number of players.
It’s a slightly changed back three for Cullen this week with Hugo Keenan at full back, Russell on the right and Rory O’Loughlin on the left.
Russell was a part of Noel McNamara’s 2019 U-20 Grand Slam-winning side while he’s also been involved in successful Celtic Cup teams with the province.
The DIT student started playing rugby with Wanderers RFC before moving to St Michael’s College while he now plays with Dublin University FC.
There is a change in the centre with Conor O’Brien back from injury and starting for Leinster for the first time since February 2020.
Outside O’Brien will be Garry Ringrose.
There is a new pair at half-back with Jamison Gibson-Park and Ross Byrne starting their first games of the season.
There is no change to Cullen’s front row with Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan and Michael Ala’alatoa again selected and behind them it’s also the same lock combination of Ross Molony and first-time captain Ryan.
Ryan made his Leinster debut away to Dragons in September 2017 in the first game of the double-winning season and the 25-year-old will now lead Leinster Rugby for the first time at the same venue.
There is only one change to the back row with Max Deegan coming in at No 8 for the injured Caelan Doris. Deegan will make his first competitive start since August 2020.
Elsewhere, it’s as you were with Rhys Ruddock and Josh van der Flier on the flanks.
Wicklow man van der Flier will make his 100th appearance for Leinster on Sunday. He made his debut in October 2014 against Zebre and has since scored 12 tries in 99 appearances for his province.
The 28-year-old started out his rugby in the Wicklow RFC minis, before going to Wesley College and then playing for UCD RFC.
Having come through the Leinster Rugby Academy and into the Senior ranks, van der Flier has also won 32 caps for his country.
On the bench there is a return to Leinster colours for recent signing Nick McCarthy, while Dan Leavy is another to hopefully make a welcome return from injury should he be introduced.
Leinster Rugby (caps in brackets):
15. Hugo Keenan (31)
14. Rob Russell (0)
13. Garry Ringrose (87)
12. Conor O’Brien (23)
11. Rory O’Loughlin (88)
10. Ross Byrne (105)
9. Jamison Gibson-Park (102)
1. Andrew Porter (78)
2. Dan Sheehan (14)
3. Michael Ala’alatoa (1)
4. Ross Molony (117)
5. James Ryan (51) CAPTAIN
6. Rhys Ruddock (189)
7. Josh van der Flier (99)
8. Max Deegan (66)
16. James Tracy (130)
17. Ed Byrne (71)
18. Cian Healy (232)
19. Ryan Baird (28)
20. Dan Leavy (72)
21. Nick McCarthy (36)
22. Ciarán Frawley (36)
23. Scott Penny (29)
Referee: AJ Jacobs (SARU)