With the 2019 Guinness Six Nations just around the corner, Joe Schmidt will be delighted to see three of his most trusted Ireland internationals make a return to action this weekend.
Rob Kearney is back from ‘a dead leg’ to lead Leinster out when they welcome interprovincial rivals Ulster to the RDS Arena in the Guinness PRO14 on Saturday.
The 32-year-old British and Irish Lions full-back has 86 caps for his country and started every game of Ireland’s Grand Slam-winning 2018 Championship campaign.
It was the fourth time Kearney had been part of a Championship victory, following Ireland’s wins in 2009, 2014 and 2015, and his second Grand Slam with his country.
There is also a welcome return for experienced loosehead Jack McGrath, who also featured heavily for Ireland during last year’s triumph.
The 29-year-old has recovered from a hip injury in time to face Ulster in Dublin, where he will take his place in the front row alongside fellow internationals Sean Cronin and Andrew Porter.
Elsewhere, flanker Peter O’Mahony will also take to the field this weekend for Munster’s pivotal Guinness PRO14 battle with Connacht at the Sportsground.
O’Mahony missed last weekend’s memorable victory over Leinster but returns to captain Johann van Graan’s side as they look to close the gap at the top of Conference A.
He will be joined by Chris Farrell after he recovered from a thigh injury to take his place in the midfield, where he will be hoping to prove his fitness ahead of the 2019 Guinness Six Nations.
The 25-year-old made his Championship debut for Ireland in 2018, starting against Wales and earning the man-of-the-match award, but a knee injury ruled him out of the rest of the campaign.