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European Champions Cup Preview: Castres Olympique v Leinster

European Champions Cup Preview: Castres Olympique v Leinster

Leinster gave Castres a 14-0 head start when the sides met at Stade Pierre-Antoine last January. Matt O’Connor’s men fought back to take a 29-22 victory that day and will be aiming for a similar outcome on Sunday afternoon.


CASTRES OLYMPIQUE (4th) v LEINSTER (1st), Stade Pierre-Antoine, 2pm local time/1pm Irish time (live Sky Sports 3 HD/RTÉ Radio 1/highlights TG4)

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Team News: Unfortunately the game at Stade Pierre-Antoine has come too early for both Mike Ross and Rob Kearney who have not been able to shake off their groin and back injuries suffered late last week.

However, there is better news for Luke Fitzgerald who starts his first match for Leinster since March of this year when Leinster hosted Munster at the Aviva Stadium in the PRO12. It will be his 125th appearance for the province.

There are three changes to the team that beat Wasps last Sunday with one in the pack and two in the backs, in addition to a number of positional changes to accomodate the returning Fitzgerald.

It is as you were in the front row with three Ireland internationals selected from the start in Jack McGrath, Sean Cronin and Michael Bent. The first change is in the second row with Kane Douglas partnering Devin Toner, and Mike McCarthy starting from the bench.

There is no change again in the back row with Rhys Ruddock selected at blindside flanker and Dominic Ryan, a try scorer in the win over Wasps, starting at openside. Jamie Heaslip once again captains the side from number 8 in what will be his 191st game for the province.

The second change sees Isaac Boss starting at scrum half, instead of Eoin Reddan, with Jimmy Gopperth alongside him.

Outside of them, Ian Madigan moves from full-back to inside centre with Gordon D’Arcy again selected in the 13 jersey. Noel Reid, who started in the number 12 shirt last week, reverts to the bench.

The final change is out wide with the fit-again Fitzgerald coming in on the left wing and Darragh Fanning, who touched down twice at the RDS last Sunday, moving across to the right wing. As a result, Springbok Zane Kirchner will line out at full-back.

Meanwhile, France call-up Rory Kockott has been replaced by Cedric Garcia in the Castres team to take on Leinster.

The residency-qualified Kockott, who has been selected in the French squad for their November internationals, misses the Leinster game due to a knee injury.

There are five changes to the Castres side that lost 25-9 at Harlequins in round 1, with Romain Cabannes coming in for Thomas Combezou at inside centre.

Yannick Caballero and Piula Faasalele replace William Whetton and Ibrahim Diarra in the back row. Faasalele will anchor the scrum at number 8, with his second row spot taken by Uruguayan international Rodrigo Capo Ortega.

CASTRES OLYMPIQUE: Geoffrey Palis; Max Evans, Christopher Tuatara, Romain Cabannes, Remi Grosso; Remi Tales (capt), Cedric Garcia; Saimone Taumoepeau, Brice Mach, Ramiro Herrera, Richie Gray, Rodrigo Capo Ortega, Mathieu Babillot, Yannick Caballero, Piula Faasalele.

Replacements: Mathieu Bonello, Mihaita Lazar, Yohan Montes, Christophe Samson, Ibrahim Diarra, Romain Martial, Julien Dumora, Antoine Dupont.

LEINSTER: Zane Kirchner; Darragh Fanning, Gordon D’Arcy, Ian Madigan, Luke Fitzgerald; Jimmy Gopperth, Isaac Boss; Jack McGrath, Sean Cronin, Michael Bent, Devin Toner, Kane Douglas, Rhys Ruddock, Dominic Ryan, Jamie Heaslip (capt).

Replacements: Richardt Strauss, Ed Byrne, Tadhg Furlong, Mike McCarthy, Jack Conan, Eoin Reddan, Noel Reid, Mick McGrath.

Referee: Greg Garner (England)
Assistant Referees: Andrew Small, Paul Dix (both England)
Television Match Official: Trevor Fisher (England)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Castres Olympique to win: 6/5; Draw: 20/1; Leinster to win: 4/6

Pre-Match Quotes: Marco Caputo (Leinster) – “French teams are significantly better at home than they are on the road. Castres have only won three matches (this season), all of those matches they’ve won have been at home.

“One of those matches was against Grenoble, who are currently sitting fifth in the Top 14, and they put 50 points on them. I’d say Castres at this moment in time are probably a 20-point better side playing at home.

“We’ve previewed their performances both on the road and at home and it’s significantly evident that they are a much better team at home.

“Castres are a team that are extremely confrontational, they’re an aggressive team. We know that French teams, particularly when they’re playing at home, will come at us through their forwards, through their scrum, through their lineout, with their driving maul.

“The crowd comes into play if they get a little bit of ascendancy there, which brings the referee into play. It’s a completely different game that we’re preparing for, a different mindset.

“We’ve really got to roll up our sleeves, get our hands dirty this weekend and we’re preparing for a hugely confrontational game.”

Rhys Ruddock (Leinster) – “From watching the away game last year, I don’t think we can afford to have as slow a start against Castres away from home. Although they’ve had a fairly slow start in the Top-14 this year, they’re winning their home games.

“I think we need to have a quick start and hopefully not make the same mistakes we made (against Wasps) with just letting them in for tries when we had the pressure on them. We need a similar sort of intensity but maybe cut out the few mistakes.

“I think they (Castres) could be a step up again in terms of the breakdown and their physicality in that area. Their back row is really strong and players like (Ibrahim) Diarra – we targeted him last year, but he still managed to have a great game and really impacted on us in that area and the breakdown especially.

“I think we’ll have to have a step up there. But they struggled last weekend in terms of the scrum a little bit and the lineout didn’t go as well as it had been, so I think they’ll still want to come after us in that area and have a point to prove. It’ll be a big week for the pack, I think.”

Current Form – Castres Olympique  – (Top 14 Championship): Lost 25-22 at home to Stade Francais; Lost 35-6 away to Toulouse; Won 30-6 at home to Bayonne; Lost 43-10 away to Montpellier; Lost 41-16 away to La Rochelle; Won 27-18 at home to Oyonnax; Lost 28-18 away to Lyon; Won 51-10 at home to Grenoble; Lost 59-7 away to Bordeaux-Bègles; (European Champions Cup): Lost 25-9 away to Harlequins

Leinster – (GUINNESS PRO12): Lost 22-20 away to Glasgow Warriors; Won 42-12 at home to the Scarlets; Lost 10-9 away to Connacht; Won 37-23 at home to Cardiff Blues; Lost 34-23 at home to Munster; Won 20-3 away to Zebre; (European Champions Cup): Won 25-20 at home to Wasps

Top Scorers – 2014/15 European Champions Cup: Castres Olympique – Points: Rory Kockott 9; Tries: -; Leinster – Points: Ian Madigan 10; Tries: Darragh Fanning 2

Previous European Meetings: 4

Sunday, January 12, 2014 – Pool 1 – Castres Olympique 22 Leinster 29, Stade Pierre Antoine
Saturday, October 19, 2013 – Pool 1 – Leinster 19 Castres Olympique 7, the RDS
Friday, December 13, 2008 – Pool 2 – Castres Olympique 18 Leinster 15, Stade Pierre Antoine
Saturday, December 6, 2008 – Pool 2 – Leinster 33 Castres Olympique 3, the RDS

Match Facts –

– Leinster have won three of the four games contested between these sides in Europe

– Leinster have lost three of their last five against French opposition after being unbeaten in their previous six before that

– This game will be Leinster’s 130th in the tournament – they have won 87 of the previous 129

– Castres have won just one of the last 11 encounters with Irish sides, although that one win came against Leinster in 2008

– Gordon D’Arcy will make his 100th appearance in the top tier of European rugby this weekend

European Cup Records:

Castres Olympique –
2013/14: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
2012/13: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2011/12: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
2010/11: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
2008/09: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
2006/07: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
2005/06: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
2004/05: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2001/02: Reached the semi-finals
2000/01: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
1995/96: Failed to qualify from Pool D

Leinster –
2013/14: Reached the quarter-finals
2012/13: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
2011/12: Champions
2010/11: Champions
2009/10: Reached the semi-finals
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