Isaac Boss is preferred to fellow Ireland international Eoin Reddan at scrum half, and Nathan Hines, Shane Jennings and Jamie Heaslip have been added to the starting pack.
Reddan is one of three Ireland internationals named on the replacements bench, with Cian Healy and Devin Toner also included.
Sunday's game marks Leinster's 100th Heineken Cup fixture and the team will be led once more by the experienced Leo Cullen who starts in the second row alongside Scotland international Hines.
Sean O'Brien reverts to blindside flanker, featuring in an all-Ireland back row alongside Jennings and Heaslip.
Boss partners Jonathan Sexton at half-back and with Brian O'Driscoll sidelined by injury, Eoin O'Malley will continue his centre partnership with Gordon D'Arcy.
The 22-year-old O'Malley has shown good form in his recent outings in the Magners League, and comes in to make his Heineken Cup debut.
Fergus McFadden, another in-form player, lines up once again on the left wing in an unchanged back-three alongside Shane Horgan and Isa Nacewa.
Speaking ahead of the game, Joe Schmidt said: "We had a fantastic game when the two sides met last season. Clermont Auvergne outscored Leinster by three tries to two that night, but left 26 points in missed kicks out on the field.
"Leinster were lucky to get their noses over the line, but they showed all the character we knew they had. What I learned last season is you can't go to a place like Clermont and just look to try to get a bonus point out of it. Leicester tried that and they had 40 points and five tries put on them.
"You have got to go to Clermont and play against them. We just want to let the result take care of itself by playing as well as we can. Hopefully, we can get something out of the game and take some confidence into the second leg."
Meanwhile, tickets sales for the return fixture between Leinster and Clermont Auvergne at the Aviva Stadium next Saturday (kick-off 5.45pm) have now passed the 40,000 mark and are on sale now from the usual outlets and online from www.leinsterrugby.ie.
LEINSTER (v Clermont Auvergne): Isa Nacewa; Shane Horgan, Eoin O'Malley, Gordon D'Arcy, Fergus McFadden; Jonathan Sexton, Isaac Boss; Heinke van der Merwe, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, Leo Cullen (capt), Nathan Hines, Sean O'Brien, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Jason Harris-Wright, Cian Healy, Clint Newland, Devin Toner, Dominic Ryan, Eoin Reddan, Shaun Berne, David Kearney.