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Sunday 25 September 2016

Gibson-Park in blues debut

Ireland's Healy, McCarthy and Kearney return to play

New Leinster player Jamison Gibson-Park will make his debut against Bath tonight in Donnybrook.
New Leinster player Jamison Gibson-Park will make his debut against Bath tonight in Donnybrook.

Leinster v Bath, Donnybrook, Tonight (KO 7.30)

The last act of Jamison Gibson-Park's Hurricanes career was to pinch the ball at the final ruck to signal the first Super Rugby title for the Wellington club.

The New Zealander, the latest project player imported into Irish rugby, will make his debut from the start at Donnybrook this evening.

It remains to be seen what Gibson-Park will add to the province, although there is something of the young Eoin Reddan about the way he approaches the game.

It will also be a first hit out for Ireland internationals Rob Kearney, Cian Healy and Mike McCarthy as they all return from injury.

Coach Leo Cullen was keen to convince the sceptical assembled media that this season can be better than last.

"I just think they are a competitive group of players that are really ambitious," he said about the players in place.

"I think it is important we have a framework where they can be as good as they can possibly be. I am encouraged.

"We have you good young guys coming through. You are never quite sure how they will handle some of the big occasions.

"But I am looking forward to seeing some of them perform."

It all starts this evening with the battle for position rather than points.

The most interesting selection is that of Joey Carbery at out-half ahead of Cathal Marsh and Ross Byrne.

Rory O'Loughlin will start at outside centre - he impressed against Gloucester - with Garry Ringrose picked on the right wing.

Bath will bring a gigantic pack of forwards best reflected in the engine room where Luke Charteris and David Attwood will test Leinster captain Ross Molony and McCarthy, on his return from concussion.

The back row of Matt Garvey, their primary leader, Dave Denton and Toby Faletau contains all the carrying power of a fleet of trucks.

Leinster: R Kearney; G Ringrose, R O'Loughlin, N Reid, A Byrne; J Carbery, J Gibson-Park; C Healy, J Tracy, M Bent, R Molony (capt), M McCarthy, J Murphy, D Leavy, P Timmins.

Bath: A Watson; S Rokoduguni, M Clark, D Bowden, J Williams; R Priestland, K Fotuali'i; N Auterac, R Batty, H Thomas, L Charteris, D Attwood, M Garvey (capt), D Denton, T Faletau.

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