Leo Cullen's side look to be the strongest of the Irish provinces
The Pro 12 begins this weekend, as all four Irish provinces look to match Connacht's feat from last season in winning the title.
Leinster look to be the most likely side to win back-to-back titles for Irish provinces, but how are they set up ahead of the new campaign?
Leo Cullen’s side finished the regular season at the top of the table, pipping Connacht on the basis of winning more matches. A ten-point defeat to Connacht in the Final soured what had been an excellent domestic campaign at the RDS. Leinster won more matches than anyone else, but struggled with tries as half of the teams in the league crossed the tryline more often.
Ireland international Rob Henshaw’s transfer to Leinster is the most high-profile move between Irish provinces in recent memory. Former Munster lock Ian Nagle is also an intriguing signing. The Cork native briefly stepped away from the game to study in Cambridge University.
When Johnny Sexton is on top-form, Leinster are undoubtedly a better team. With Ian Madigan’s move to the Top 14, Sexton may have to play more outside of the international windows, fitness permitting. The fly-half will be keen to impress both Leo Cullen and Joe Schmidt, and with a Lions tour at the end of the season, we can expect a big campaign from the 31-year-old.
A fit Johnny Sexton will be crucial this season for Leinster. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Billy Stickland
Win. Win. Win. Leinster are at the level, where a trophy-less season is seen as a disappointment. Last season’s top-of-the-table finish was well deserved, but the loss to Connacht was a disappointing way to end the season. They will want to win the league this season.
Ross Molony flourished last season in a pack that also included Mick Kearney, Hayden Triggs and Devin Toner as second-row rivals. Such was his performances last season, Molony was widely touted for a spot on the tour to South Africa. He will get his chance this season during the international breaks to force his way into the team on a more regular basis.
8/10/16: Munster (H)
29/10/16: Connacht (H)
26/12/16: Munster (A)
31/12/16: Ulster (H)
14/4/17: Connacht (A)
6/5/16: Ulster (A)