Leinster have left the bulk of their Ireland internationals at home for their two-game United Rugby Championship tour of South Africa.

Just front rows Ronán Kelleher and Andrew Porter, who were both injured during the Six Nations, are included in the 31-man squad that will face the Cell C Sharks and the DHL Stormers over the next two weekends.

Back row Rhys Ruddock will captain the touring party as the URC leaders, ten points clear at the top with three games left, bid to secure a home play-off draw.

Leinster saw off the challenge of Connacht on Saturday to book a place in the quarter-finals of the Heineken Champions Cup, where they will face head coach Leo Cullen's old team Leicester Tigers at Welford Road in three weeks’ time, with the exact date and time to be confirmed.

The Sharks are sixth in the table with nine victories from their 15 games, while the Stormers are one place higher having also won nine of their matches.

"Some guys will, I think, need a bit of game time over there and the big thing is the work that has gone into this, it’s a much wider group," said Cullen, who joked about the strains on the Ireland players, prior to naming the squad.

"As we know if you want to stay alive in the two competitions you need a good chunk of guys, and Caelan [Doris, sitting beside Cullen] and some of the guys were taking it easy in camp during the Six Nations.

"We had some guys with their shoulders to the wheel back in base camp trying to push us up the mountain and carrying the load for all these guys.

"Huge credit goes into that group because they’ve done a fantastic job to get us into the situation that we have that bit of a lead, so it’s important to reward some of those guys with some more games as well.

"Those guys are itching to play now."

Connacht, meanwhile, have brought a strong 28-man selection to the Rainbow Nation for their games against the Emirates Lions and the Sharks.

Andy Friend’s side are currently tenth in the standings and need to win their remaining three games and hope that other results go their way to make the play-offs.

The Westerners, champions in 2016, will add a number of players to their ranks for next season, with four coming from Leinster, including Josh Murphy, who started in both legs against Connacht.

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"We are hopefully waiting on one more," said the Australian.

"But it is enough, I am actually really happy with our squad. That was our message to our boys.

"We have got the talent. We just have to make sure we nurture the talent individually.

"That's on us as coaches but also as players. It's on them to nurture their own talent and make sure they are delivering and getting the best out of themselves.

"At the end of the day, that does rest with me. If it's not right then I need to take a look at what I'm doing. So that's my big focus."

"I thought [Josh] was great last week and I thought he was great again [on Friday].

"In terms of us wanting to be physical, he's physical. He wins physical battles. It will be great to bring him in."

Jack Carty travels as captain and the Ireland out-half spoke about the improvements needed to close the gap between his team, who provided four of the recent Ireland squad, and the four-in-a-row winners.

"There has definitely been a change in the last two weeks in terms of prep and how fellas went about it," he said after the 56-20 defeat at the Aviva.

"I think if we potentially had that for a longer sustained period of time, that would be a big thing moving forward for us.

"I suppose when Leinster get that [first] score, we had a conversation under the sticks but it's all well and good having conversations underneath the sticks, we need to act on that.

"Look, we restarted, they kicked back to us and we turn over. We gave them too easy access and that's probably the main thing for us.

"We do something poor and then we back it up with a poor action, whereas the top teams cut it there. You never see... even the Irish national team, you never see them go bad-to-bad-to-bad.

"You might see bad-to-bad but they cut it there and it's always a good. Usually if you end up having three bads back-to-back, you'll end up underneath your own sticks and I think that's something we unfortunately had on too many occasions.


"I suppose when you have a couple of lads away with the international team, you have seen them really step forward in terms of Mack [Hansen], Finlay [Bealham] and Bundee [Aki].

"They have really grabbed certain fellas in their positions. Mack or Finlay have a couple of young fellas in their position, and they have taken them under their wing.

"I suppose the last two weeks have been a tough learning curve for the front-rows but I don't think they will come up against a tougher front-row opposition.

"It's about what they can take from that moving forward."

Leinster squad

Forwards: Ed Byrne, Peter Dooley, Michael Milne, Andrew Porter, Rónan Kelleher, John McKee, James Tracy, Vakh Abdaladze, Michael Ala'alatoa, Thomas Clarkson, Brian Deeny, Jack Dunne, Josh Murphy, Martin Moloney, Rhys Ruddock, Seán O’Brien, Scott Penny, Max Deegan, Alex Soroka.

Backs: Cormac Foley, Nick McCarthy, Harry Byrne, David Hawkshaw, Tommy O'Brien, Rob Russell, Ciarán Frawley, Rory O’Loughlin, Jamie Osborne, Adam Byrne, Chris Cosgrave, Max O’Reilly.

Connacht squad

Forwards: Jack Aungier, Finlay Bealham, Paul Boyle, Denis Buckley, Jarrad Butler, Oisín Dowling, Jordan Duggan, Leva Fifita, Dave Heffernan, Greg McGrath, Jonny Murphy Niall Murray, Conor Oliver, Cian Prendergast, Gavin Thornbury, Dylan Tierney-Martin

Backs: Bundee Aki, Caolin Blade, Shayne Bolton, Jack Carty, Tom Daly, Tom Farrell, Conor Fitzgerald, Mack Hansen, Kieran Marmion, Tiernan O'Halloran, John Porch, Alex Wootton.

Follow Ulster v Munster (Friday 7.35pm), Lions v Connacht (Saturday 3.05pm) and Sharks v Leinster (Saturday 5.15pm) on rte.ie/sport and on the RTÉ News App. Watch Ulster v Munster and Lions v Connacht on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player.