Leinster will have one foot in the final if they can come out on top in this crunch clash.
The leaders remained firmly in control of Conference A last weekend as they secured a 40-21 bonus-point win at home to Glasgow while Ulster were unable to pick up the extra point against the Ospreys.
Leinster came out on top 24-12 when these teams met at the RDS Arena in January, scoring all four tries in the match, but Ulster have won their last 17 PRO14 fixtures at the Kingspan Stadium including a 14-13 win on Leinster’s last visit in April 2019.
Having returned from injury off the bench last Friday against Ospreys, Robert Baloucoune comes into the starting back three for Ulster, joining Jacob Stockdale on the left wing and Michael Lowry at full-back. Stuart McCloskey and James Hume have retained their starting berths in midfield. John Cooney and Ian Madigan are named at half-back.
In the front row, both Eric O’Sullivan and Tom O’Toole come in to start at loosehead and tighthead prop respectively, with John Andrew retaining his place at hooker. Alan O’Connor and Kieran Treadwell will partner up in the second row. Marcell Coetzee makes his return from injury to start at Number Eight, and is named alongside Nick Timoney and skipper, Jordi Murphy.
Luke McGrath will once again captain the side as Leo Cullen welcomes back four players from Ireland camp for the top of Conference A clash in Belfast. Academy back Max O’Reilly starts at full-back for his fifth cap of the season, with try-scorer from last week Cian Kelleher on the right wing and Dave Kearney on the left. Kearney has seven tries in 12 games so far this season.
Rory O’Loughlin starts in the number 12 jersey this week, with Jimmy O’Brien wearing the number 13 outside him. Captain McGrath is joined this week by Ross Byrne who was released by Andy Farrell to Leinster during the week. Ed Byrne is another released back to Leinster and he starts at loosehead, with James Tracy at hooker and Michael Bent at tighthead.
Devin Toner and Scott Fardy are the second row combination for Cullen’s side for the second week in a row, as Toner gets ever closer to Gordon D’Arcy’s all-time Leinster caps record of 261. In the back row, Rhys Ruddock and Josh van der Flier are the final two available to Cullen having been released back to the province and they start at blindside and openside, with Guinness Man of the Match from last week, Scott Penny, completing the starting XV for Leinster Rugby.
Ulster: Michael Lowry, Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Ian Madigan, John Cooney; Eric O’Sullivan, John Andrew, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Kieran Treadwell, Nick Timoney, Jordi Murphy (Capt.), Marcell Coetzee.
Replacements: Adam McBurney, Andrew Warwick, Marty Moore, Cormac Izuchukwu, Sean Reidy, Alby Mathewson, Stewart Moore, Rob Lyttle.
Leinster: Max O'Reilly, Cian Kelleher, Jimmy O'Brien, Rory O'Loughlin, Dave Kearney, Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath (CAPT), Ed Byrne, James Tracy, Michael Bent, Devin Toner, Scott Fardy, Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier, Scott Penny.
Replacements: Seán Cronin, Peter Dooley, Thomas Clarkson, Ross Molony, Josh Murphy, Rowan Osborne, Jamie Osborne, Jack Dunne.
Kingspan Stadium, Belfast
Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU, 42nd competition game:
Assistant Referees: Seán Gallagher, Robert O'Sullivan (both IRFU)
TMO: Olly Hodges (IRFU)
Live on Premier Sports 1, eir Sport 1, Super Sport (SA), ESPN+ (USA), pro14.tv.
Deferred: 21:30 TG4