Pro14 final: Ulster captain Iain Henderson returns as Cooney drops to bench

John Cooney has started all of Ulster's matches post-lockdown
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin Date: Saturday, 12 September Kick-off: 19:35 BST
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Ulster and online

Ulster captain Iain Henderson will make his first appearance post-lockdown in Saturday’s Pro14 final against Leinster after recovering from a hip injury.

Dan McFarland has made four changes for the decider and hands Alby Mathewson his first start in place of regular scrum-half John Cooney.

Flanker Sean Reidy and full-back Michael Lowry come into the side, with Jacob Stockdale moving to the wing.

Garry Ringrose will captain Leinster on his 75th appearance for the province.

Having not featured since February, Henderson’s return offers a timely boost for McFarland and the Ireland international will partner Alan O’Connor in the second row.

The front row of Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring and Tom O’Toole is retained while Reidy will start in the back row along with Matthew Rea and Marcell Coetzee.

All Black Mathewson, who moved to Belfast from Munster over the summer, will make his first start after impressing off the bench in Ulster’s semi-final win over Edinburgh, while Cooney and Ian Madigan, who struck the winning points with the last kick of the game, will provide backline cover on the bench.

James Hume and Stuart McCloskey are retained while Louis Ludik drops out of the squad, with Ireland international Stockdale switching from full-back to wing to accommodate Lowry while Rob Lyttle starts on the other flank.

James Ryan

Ireland lock James Ryan will start for favourites Leinster after recovering from a shoulder injury while Johnny Sexton moves to the bench with one eye on the Champions Cup quarter-final against Saracens on 19 September.

Robbie Henshaw will partner captain Ringrose at centre and Leinster will have an unchanged back three from their semi-final victory over Munster, with Jordan Larmour, Hugo Keenan and James Lowe offering an attacking outlet.

Jamison Gibson-Park will start at scrum-half alongside Ross Byrne, who returns in place of Sexton, and Cullen has retained the front row of Cian Healy, Ronan Kelleher and Andrew Porter for the final.

Ryan and Devin Toner will start the Dublin decider in Leinster’s engine room and Caelan Doris is selected at blind-side flanker, with Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan rounding out the team.

Leinster: Larmour; Keenan, Ringrose (capt), Henshaw, Lowe; R Byrne, Gibson-Park; Healy, Kelleher, Porter; Toner, Ryan; Doris, Van der Flier, Conan.

Replacements: Tracy, E Byrne, Bent, Fardy, Connors, McGrath, Sexton, O’Loughlin.

Ulster: Lowry; Lyttle, Hume, McCloskey, Stockdale; Burns, Mathewson; O’Sullivan, Herring, O’Toole; O’Connor, Henderson (capt); Rea, Reidy, Coetzee.

Replacements: Andrew, McGrath, Moore, Carter, Murphy, Cooney, Madigan, Timoney.

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BBC Sport – Rugby Union

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