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Heineken Cup Preview: Leinster v Clermont Auvergne

Heineken Cup Preview: Leinster v Clermont Auvergne

Leinster are the first of the Irish provinces in European quarter-final action this weekend, as they put their Heineken Cup title on the line against highly-rated French side Clermont Auvergne. With the fit-again Brian O’Driscoll, Shane Horgan and Kevin McLaughlin returning, Leinster are bidding to reach the semi-finals for the third time in five years.


LEINSTER v CLERMONT AUVERGNE, the RDS, 8pm (live Sky Sports 1)

Team News: The Leinster team to take on French side Clermont Auvergne in Friday night’s Heineken Cup quarter-final has been named.

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Brian O’Driscoll has recovered from a knee injury and will partner his Ireland colleague Gordon D’Arcy at centre for the sell-out encounter, in a back-line which also includes the fit-again Shane Horgan.

Horgan will line out on the right wing in a back-three that also features Rob Kearney (full-back) and Isa Nacewa (left wing).

In the pack, Leo Cullen skippers the side and is partnered at second row by Scotland’s Nathan Hines.

Stan Wright continues in the front row alongside John Fogarty and CJ van der Linde, while the returning Kevin McLaughlin takes his place in the back row alongside fellow Irish internationals Shane Jennings and Jamie Heaslip.

Meanwhile, the Aurelien Rougerie-skippered Clermont Auvergne side showcases nine countries, with Canadian lock Jamie Cudmore preferred to current French squad member Julien Pierre in the starting line-up.

While the visitors field a formidable and massive all-French back row of Julien Bonnaire, Alex Lapandry and Elvis Vermeulen, the front row is made up of new French star Thomas Domingo, Argentine hooker Mario Ledesma and Georgian prop Davit Zirakashvili.

Grand Slam winner Morgan Parra and Australian Brock James team up at half-back, with South African Marius Joubert and Italian Gonzalo Canale forming the centre partnership, and Test wingers and fellow Grand Slam champions Rougerie and Julien Malzieu posing the threat out wide.

The teams have met just twice in the tournament – Leinster winning both pool matches by three-point margins in the 2002/03 competition.

LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; Shane Horgan, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Isa Nacewa; Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan; Stan Wright, John Fogarty, CJ van der Linde, Leo Cullen (capt), Nathan Hines, Kevin McLaughlin, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements: Bernard Jackman, Mike Ross, Cian Healy, Malcolm O’Kelly, Stephen Keogh, Paul O’Donohoe, Shaun Berne, Girvan Dempsey.

CLERMONT AUVERGNE: Anthony Floch; Aurelien Rougerie (capt), Marius Joubert, Gonzalo Canale, Julien Malzieu; Brock James, Morgan Parra; Thomas Domingo, Mario Ledesma, Davit Zirakashvili, Jamie Cudmore, Thibaut Privat, Julien Bonnaire, Alexandre Lapandry, Elvis Vermeulen.

Replacements: Benoit Cabello, Vincent Debaty, Clément Ric, Julien Pierre, Alexandre Audebert, Kevin Senio, Gavin Williams, Wesley Fofana.

Referee: Dave Pearson (England)
Assistant Referees: Wayne Barnes, Stuart Terheege (both England)
Television Match Official: Geoff Warren (England)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 1/2; Draw: 20/1; Clermont Auvergne to win: 7/4

Pre-Match Quotes: Michael Cheika (Leinster) – “Last week’s win (over Munster) makes this week a bit easier and you’ve a bit more of a smile on your face for a preparation point of view, but that’s about it.

“We’ve learned too many times in all competitions – whether it’s in European back-to-backs, or Magners (League) to Heineken Cup, or Magners to Magners – that the last week means nothing unless you back it up the next week.

“This is sudden death football now, so I think it’s going to come down to who wants it more on the night now.

“Clermont are a team who don’t seem to have an issue about going away from home. They have shown their strategic prowess in the two matches they played in their pool against Leicester and the Ospreys.

“They’re also very well managed and it’s going to be the biggest battle of our season so far.”

Brian O’Driscoll (Leinster) – “The suggestion that French sides are bad travellers is old news as far as we’re concerned.

“We know that Clermont performed so strongly at Thomond Park last year and that they will take confidence from that game, so coming to the RDS will hold no fear for them.

“They are a side who are capable of going anywhere, playing well and winning. I’m sure that they would like nothing better than to come over here and spoil the party.

“They have a lot of French players in their squad who play in critical positions and who are obviously in excellent form coming off the back of such a successful Six Nations.

“In Morgan Parra, Julien Malzieu and Jamie Cudmore they have some real quality and having watched some of their recent footage it’s clear that they’re playing some impressive stuff.

“They are a team who like to play on the front foot and when they do that they play their best rugby, so that’s something that we will need to be wary of. If they’re feeling in the groove, they can be very dangerous.”

Pre-Match Multimedia –

‘Massive Test’ For Jennings And Leinster

Cheika Prepares Side For Clermont Clash

No Room For Error – Hines

Reddan Revelling In Leinster’s Competitive Edge

Current Form – Last Five Matches – Leinster – (Magners League): Won 27-14 at home to the Scarlets; Won 29-20 away to the Cardiff Blues; Won 20-14 at home to Glasgow Warriors; Won 17-14 at home to Connacht; Won 16-15 away to Munster

Clermont Auvergne (Top 14): Won 45-18 at home to Albi; Won 22-17 at home to Perpignan; Lost 22-13 away to Bayonne; Won 41-3 at home to Montpellier; Lost 19-10 away to Stade Francais

2009/10 Heineken Cup Pool Record – Leinster – Pool 6: Lost 12-9 at home to London Irish; Won 36-13 away to Brive; Won 32-7 away to the Scarlets; Won 39-7 at home to the Scarlets; Won 27-10 at home to Brive; Drew 11-11 away to London Irish

Clermont Auvergne – Pool 3: Won 36-18 at home to Viadana; Lost 25-24 away to the Ospreys; Won 40-30 at home to Leicester Tigers; Lost 20-15 away to Leicester Tigers; Won 27-7 at home to the Ospreys; Won 59-20 away to Viadana

2009/10 Heineken Cup Top Scorers – Leinster: Points: Jonathan Sexton 41; Tries: Gordon D’Arcy 4; Clermont Auvergne: Points: Brock James 65; Tries: Napolioni Nalaga 5

Previous European Meetings: 2

Friday, December 13, 2002 – Pool 4 – Leinster 12 Montferrand 9, Donnybrook
Saturday, December 7, 2002 – Pool 4 – Montferrand 20 Leinster 23, Stade Marcel Michelin

Heineken Cup Records:

Leinster –
2008/09: Champions
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

Clermont Auvergne –
2008/09: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
2007/08: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
2005/06: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2002/03: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2001/02: Reached the quarter-finals
1999/00: Reached the quarter-finals