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TEAMS: Johnny Sexton captains Leinster in Champions Cup showdown with Saracens

Leinster captain Johnny Sexton

Leinster has restored Johnny Sexton to their starting line-up for their Champions Cup quarter-final against Saracens, who name Alex Goode at fly-half.

Sexton is back to captain Leinster after being left on the bench for their PRO14 triumph over Ulster last weekend, when Ross Byrne was preferred by head coach Leo Cullen.

There are two surprise selections for Leinster who hand European debuts to wing Hugo Keenan and flanker Will Connors for the match at the Aviva Stadium.

While Ronan Kelleher’s inaccuracy at the lineout over recent weeks has raised enough concern within Cullen to start Sean Cronin at hooker.

The 72-cap forward scrums down in an all-Ireland front row of Cian Healy and Andrew Porter, but there is no place in the pack for PRO14 final Man of the Match Josh van der Flier who must settle for a place on the bench with Kelleher.

Victorious over Leinster in last year’s final at Newcastle’s St James’ Park, Saracens are without Owen Farrell due to suspension and have opted for Goode at No.10.

Goode will form an experienced half-back pairing with scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth, but it is in the pack where the bulk of Saracens changes have been made.

Billy Vunipola, a tryscorer in the final 16 months ago, is joined in the back row by Mike Rhodes and Jackson Wray, who will make his 250th appearance for the three-time European champions.

Mako returns to the front-row alongside England teammate Jamie George and South Africa international Vincent Koch, while Maro Itoje is partnered by Tim Swinson in the second-row.

Replacements Alec Clarey and Dom Morris will earn their Champions Cup stripes should they enter the fray.


Leinster v Saracens (Saturday, 3pm kick-off)

Leinster: 15 Jordan Larmour, 14 Hugo Keenan, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 James Lowe, 10 Johnny Sexton (capt), 9 Luke McGrath; 1 Cian Healy, 2 Seán Cronin, 3 Andrew Porter, 4 Devin Toner, 5 James Ryan, 6 Caelan Doris, 7 Will Connors, 8 Jack Conan

Replacements: 16 Rónan Kelleher, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Ryan Baird, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Rory O’Loughlin

Saracens: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Brad Barritt (capt), 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Alex Goode, 9 Richard Wigglesworth; 1 Mako Vunipola, 2 Jamie George, 3 Vincent Koch, 4 Maro Itoje, 5 Tim Swinson, 6 Mike Rhodes, 7 Jackson Wray, 8 Billy Vunipola

Replacements: 16 Tom Woolstencroft, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Alec Clarey, 19 Callum Hunter-Hill, 20 Calum Clark, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Manu Vunipola, 23 Dom Morris

Clermont Auvergne v Racing 92 (Saturday, 5.45pm kick-off)

Clermont: 15 Kotaro Matsushima, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Apisai Naqalevu, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Bastien Pourailly, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Morgan Parra (capt); 1 Etienne Falgoux, 2 Etienne Fourcade, 3 Rabah Slimani, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 5 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 6 Arthur Iturria, 7 Judicaël Cancoriet, 8 Fritz Lee

Replacements: 16 Adrien Pélissié, 17 Peni Ravai, 18 Cristian Ojovan, 19 Paul Jedrasiak, 20 Alexandre Lapandry, 21 Sébastien Bézy, 22 Cheik Tiberghien, 23 Peter Betham

Racing 92: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Louis Dupichot, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Olivier Klemenczak, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Teddy Iribaren (capt); 1 Eddy Ben Arous, 2 Camille Chat, 3 Georges Henri Colombe, 4 Bernard Le Roux, 5 Dominic Bird, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 7 Fabien Sanconnie, 8 Antonie Claassen

Replacements: 16 Teddy Baubigny, 17 Hassane Kolingar, 18 Ali Oz, 19 Donnacha Ryan, 20 Baptiste Chouzenoux, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Antoine Gibert, 23 Francois Trinh-Duc

Toulouse v Ulster (Sunday, 12.30pm kick-off)

Toulouse: 15 Thomas Ramos, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Sofiane Guitoune, 12 Pita Ahki, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Antoine Dupont; 1 Cyril Baille, 2 Peato Mauvaka, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 4 Rory Arnold, 5 Joe Tekori, 6 Jerome Kaino (capt), 7 Francois Cros, 8 Selevasio Tolofua,

Replacements: 16 Julien Marchand, 17 Rodrigue Neti, 18 Dorian Aldegheri, 19 Emmanuel Meafou, 20 Alban Placines, 21 Zack Holmes, 22 Alexi Bales, 23 Matthis Lebel

Ulster: 15 Michael Lowry, 14 Rob Lyttle, 13 James Hume, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Billy Burns, 9 John Cooney; 1 Jack McGrath, 2 Rob Herring, 3 Tom O’Toole, 4 Alan O’Connor, 5 Iain Henderson (capt), 6 Sean Reidy, 7 Jordi Murphy, 8 Nick Timoney

Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Eric O’Sullivan, 18 Marty Moore, 19 Sam Carter, 20 Kieran Treadwell, 21 Alby Mathewson, 22 Matt Faddes, 23 Matt Rea

Exeter Chiefs v Northampton Saints (Sunday, 5.30pm kick-off)

Exeter: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Joe Simmonds (capt), 9 Jack Maunder; 1 Alec Hepburn, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 3 Harry Williams, 4 Jonny Gray, 5 Jonny Hill, 6 Dave Ewers, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 8 Sam Simmonds

Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Sam Skinner, 20 Jannes Kirsten, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Ollie Devoto

Northampton: 15 George Furbank, 14 Matt Proctor, 13 Fraser Dingwall, 12 Rory Hutchinson, 11 Ahsee Tuala, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Henry Taylor; 1 Manny Iyogun, 2 Mikey Haywood, 3 Owen Franks, 4 David Ribbans, 5 Api Ratuniyarawa, 6 Courtney Lawes, 7 Lewis Ludlam, 8 Teimana Harrison (capt)

Replacements: 16 James Fish, 17 Alex Seville, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Alex Moon, 20 Nick Isiekwe, 21 Shaun Adendorff, 22 Alex Mitchell, 23 Taqele Naiyaravoro

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