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Heineken Cup Final Preview: Leinster v Leicester Tigers

Heineken Cup Final Preview: Leinster v Leicester Tigers

Saturday is judgement day for first-time finalists Leinster and two-time winners Leicester Tigers as they fight to be crowned Heineken Cup champions. A win for Michael Cheika’s Leinster side would cap a fantastic season for Irish rugby and see them follow in the footsteps of their provincial rivals Ulster (1999) and Munster (2006 and 2008).

2008/09 HEINEKEN CUP FINAL: Saturday, May 23

LEINSTER v LEICESTER TIGERS, Murrayfield, 5pm (live Sky Sports 2/RTE Radio 1)

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Team News: The Leinster team to face the Leicester Tigers in Saturday’s Heineken Cup final at Murrayfield, the home of Scottish rugby, has been named.

The Leinster side shows one change to the starting line-up from the semi-final victory over Munster.

With Felipe Contepomi out injured, Ireland ‘A’ international Jonathan Sexton is set to partner Chris Whitaker at half-back, while Brian O’Driscoll resumes his centre partnership with Gordon D’Arcy.

In the pack Rocky Elsom starts in the back row alongside Ireland duo Shane Jennings and Jamie Heaslip, with Leo Cullen captaining the side for what is the province’s first appearance in the Heineken Cup final.

Rob Kearney, who proved his fitness last weekend against the Dragons, has been named on a strong replacements bench alongside the likes of Girvan Dempsey, Devin Toner and Sean O’Brien.

Speaking ahead of the biggest game in Leinster’s history, head coach Michael Cheika said: “We believe in ourselves. The only guarantee that you can get in this game is that we try to go out and give everything that we’ve got in the final.

“We know that it’s our first time here and that Leicester are very experienced so we understand where we are. We’ve got to prepare our mental state so that we give them a real run for their money.

“I thought their Guinness Premiership final win last weekend was ‘classic’ Leicester. They know how to win, don’t they? If you saw the first 20 minutes after half-time they decided that they were going to hold on to the ball.

“They made a 4:1 (ratio) more tackle count on London Irish and once they saw that things weren’t going right for them in the first half they just showed what kind of a championship class side they are.

“We have to understand where we are and not worry too much about where Leicester are. I don’t know if their record in this competition will intimidate our players, but it’s a big confidence booster for their own players.

“We’ve got our own team culture that we believe in and we’re obviously pretty true to that.

“It’s still in the development stage, but I would say that our self belief is very strong within the team and what we’ve got to try to do is relax and bring it on the day because that’s what cup finals are all about.

“Our mission is to go on and win the game, but we’re not getting to get anxious by that. We’ve got to stay calm and understand how we’re going to achieve that mission against what is a formidable enemy.

“The more you look at them in the scrum, in the lineout, in their power play and in their counter attack where Geordan Murphy is a very explosive player, you’re talking about a formidable opponent.

“We want to enjoy the build-up, and as the word says ‘build-up’ towards kick-off time.”

Meanwhile, Ireland full-back-cum-winger Geordan Murphy will have the honour of captaining Leicester for their fifth Heineken Cup final appearance.

In team news, Tigers head coach Richard Cockerill has recalled Alesana Tuilagi and Martin Castrogiovanni to the starting line-up for Saturday’s showdown.

Tuilagi returns from suspension to claim a place on the wing, while Castrogiovanni is named in the front row after sitting out the Guinness Premiership final triumph over London Irish last weekend.

They are the only two changes to the side that started at Twickenham a week ago, with Ireland ‘A’ winger Johne Murphy and Julian White named amongst the replacements.

Stand-in skipper Geordan Murphy and England international duo Lewis Moody and Ben Kay are included in the 22 for their fourth Heineken Cup final with the club.

Cockerill, who has been involved in each of the club’s four previous Heineken Cup finals as both a player and coach, said: “We didn’t play as well as we could at Twickenham last week but we have looked at that and now we have the Heineken Cup final and you do not get too many opportunities to win in Europe.

“Leinster have a lot of established internationals and world class players across the board. We have a huge amount of respect for them and I am sure they have for us too.”

LEINSTER: Isa Nacewa; Shane Horgan, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald; Jonathan Sexton, Chris Whitaker; Cian Healy, Bernard Jackman, Stan Wright, Leo Cullen (capt), Malcolm O’Kelly, Rocky Elsom, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements: John Fogarty, Ronan McCormack, Devin Toner, Sean O’Brien, Simon Keogh, Rob Kearney, Girvan Dempsey.

LEICESTER TIGERS: Geordan Murphy (capt); Scott Hamilton, Ayoola Erinle, Dan Hipkiss, Alesana Tuilagi; Sam Vesty, Julien Dupuy; Marcos Ayerza, George Chuter, Martin Castrogiovanni, Tom Croft, Ben Kay, Craig Newby, Ben Woods, Jordan Crane.

Replacements: Benjamin Kayser, Julian White, Louis Deacon, Lewis Moody, Harry Ellis, Matt Smith, Johne Murphy.

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Whitehouse, Hugh Watkins (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Tim Hayes (Wales)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 10/11; Draw: 18/1; Leicester Tigers to win: 10/11

Pre-Match Quotes: Leo Cullen (Leinster) – “It’s obviously a great occasion and it’s great to be a part of these days. There’s big pressure but it’s more excitement about looking forward to the game and looking forward to the challenge.

“It’s very easy to be caught up in the occasion but it’s important that we concentrate on our performance.

“We’ve done our work on Leicester and tried to analyse where we perceive to be their strengths and weaknesses, but it’s just about implementing our game-plan and taking the opportunities that, hopefully, we’ll create.

“In many ways, the pressure will probably be on Leicester as the favourites because they’ve been in this position before whereas we’re the novices, as such.

“A lot of people are surprised that we’re in this position, but when we set out or goals at the start of the season, we wanted to be a part of these big days.

“We’ll be very disappointed if we don’t win the game so I think we do have a lot to lose.

“I’ve always had belief in the squad of players we have. It was just about pulling performances together and bringing a bit more consistency to our game.

“It hasn’t always been the prettiest at times during the tournament but we’re still hanging in there and I think there will be times in the game where we’ll have to hang in there too.”

Martin Corry (Leicester Tigers) – “It’s such a great competition. When you look at how you’re doing, you always judge yourself on the Heineken Cup.

“We’ve always seemed to end up in tough pools so to come out of those is something we’re always very proud of.

“We’re doing everything we can as we’re desperate to win it. We need to win it and then we can start reflecting on what a great campaign it’s been.

“To fall at the last hurdle means we’ve still fallen short.

“It’s a very exciting time for the club. The lads are playing well and, with how their form has been over the last couple of months, I think they’re getting what they truly deserve.

“The style of rugby and the endeavour the lads are showing on the field is really good. It’s all very well having the endeavour but you need to have the execution as well.

“Those two have married up very nicely and that’s the important factor. If you’re going to change your outlook on the game and the way you’re looking to play, you want to do that from a winning base, otherwise you can revert back to type.

“The lads have tried to change but they’ve done that whilst still winning. That makes any change easier.

“We’ve got good coaches, good players and a good environment and, thankfully, it’s working for us.”

Pre-Match Links –

Michael Cheika Audio Interview; Bernard Jackman Audio Interview; Leo Cullen Audio Interview; Chris Whitaker Audio Interview

Murphy Chases Third Heineken Cup Triumph

In Pics: Leinster Training At The RDS

Leinster Fans Gear Up For Final

Heineken Cup Final: Did You Know?

Heineken Cup Top Scorers – Current Season: Leinster: Tries: Brian O’Driscoll 5; Points: Felipe Contepomi 64; Leicester Tigers: Tries: Johne Murphy, Scott Hamilton 4 each; Points: Toby Flood 76

Paths To The Final – Leinster: Pool 2: W 27-16 v Edinburgh (away); W 41-11 v London Wasps (home); W 33-3 v Castres Olympique (home); L 18-15 v Castres Olympique (away); L 19-12 v London Wasps (away); W 12-3 v Edinburgh (home); Quarter-final: W 6-5 v Harlequins (away); Semi-final: W 25-6 v Munster (away)

Leicester Tigers: Pool 3: W 12-6 v Ospreys (home); W 60-16 v Benetton Treviso (away); W 38-27 v Perpignan (home); L 26-20 v Perpignan (away); W 52-0 v Benetton Treviso (home); L 15-9 v Ospreys (away); Quarter-final: W 20-15 v Bath (home); Semi-final: D 26-26 v Cardiff Blues (away, won 7-6 in penalty shoot-out) 

Previous European Meetings: 9

Saturday, January 19, 2008 – Pool 6 – Leicester Tigers 25 Leinster 9, Welford Road
Saturday, November 10, 2007 – Pool 6 – Leinster 22 Leicester Tigers 9, The RDS
Saturday, April 2, 2005 – Heineken Cup quarter-final – Leinster 13 Leicester Tigers 29, Lansdowne Road
Sunday, January 27, 2002 – Heineken Cup quarter-final – Leicester Tigers 29 Leinster 18, Welford Road
Saturday, January 15, 2000 – Pool 1 – Leicester Tigers 10 Leinster 32, Welford Road
Friday, November 19, 1999 – Pool 1 – Leinster 27 Leicester Tigers 20, Donnybrook
Saturday, September 27, 1997 – Pool A – Leicester Tigers 47 Leinster 22, Welford Road
Friday, September 12, 1997 – Pool A – Leinster 16 Leicester Tigers 9, Donnybrook
Wednesday, October 16, 1996 – Pool B – Leinster 10 Leicester Tigers 27, Lansdowne Road

Heineken Cup Records:

Leinster –
2007/08: Failed to qualify from Pool 6
2006/07: Reached the quarter-finals
2005/06: Reached the semi-finals
2004/05: Reached the quarter-finals
2003/04: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2002/03: Reached the semi-finals
2001/02: Reached the quarter-finals
2000/01: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
1999/00: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
1998/99: Failed to qualify from Pool A
1997/98: Failed to qualify from Pool A
1996/97: Failed to qualify from Pool B
1995/96: Reached the semi-finals

Leicester Tigers –
2007/08: Failed to qualify from Pool 6
2006/07: Runners-up
2005/06: Reached the quarter-finals
2004/05: Reached the semi-finals
2003/04: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
2002/03: Reached the quarter-finals
2001/02: Champions
2000/01: Champions
1999/00: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
1997/98: Reached the quarter-finals
1996/97: Runners-up

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Leinster to win by less than 7 points