Leinster close out the opening round of the new European Champions Cup, playing host to Wasps in what should be an entertaining Sunday evening encounter at the RDS.
EUROPEAN CHAMPIONS CUP POOL 2: Sunday, October 19
LEINSTER v WASPS, the RDS, 5.15pm (live BT Sport 1/Newstalk/highlights TG4)
Team News: Leinster’s first match in the new European Champions Cup takes place this Sunday at the RDS against Wasps, and head Matt O’Connor has named his 23-man squad for the game.
There are five changes to the pack that started against Zebre in the GUINNESS PRO12 last weekend. Captain Jamie Heaslip starts in the back row and will be flanked by Rhys Ruddock and Dominic Ryan.
Openside flanker Ryan returns after being rested against Zebre and will make his sixth start of the season – and his first in Europe since the 2010/11 campaign.
Devin Toner comes in to start in the second row alongside Mike McCarthy, taking over from Kane Douglas who is listed among the replacements.
Sean Cronin starts in the front row in place of Richardt Strauss, while Michael Bent comes in for the injured Martin Moore (shoulder) to make his first European start. Jack McGrath will line out at loosehead prop.
Mike Ross is unavailable for selection after picking up a minor groin injury during the week. With front row resources stretched, the Leinster management felt it prudent not to risk him for this weekend.
At full-back Ian Madigan starts in place of Rob Kearney, who picked up a knock in the first half of the recent win over Cardiff Blues and has had issues since, including back spasms in the warm-up before the Munster match.
Despite coming through the 80 minutes last weekend against Zebre, the issue flared up again during the week and the experienced full-back is unavailable for selection.
Zane Kirchner and Darragh Fanning are retained in the back-three from the Zebre game, with the latter making his European debut.
Leinster’s midfield partnership remains the same, with European newcomer Noel Reid and Gordon D’Arcy starting at inside and outside centre respectively. Eoin Reddan and Jimmy Gopperth make up the province’s half-back pairing.
On the bench there is a notable return for Luke Fitzgerald, who could feature for Leinster for the first time since playing the full 80 minutes in last March’s win over Munster at the Aviva Stadium.
Tickets are still available for Leinster v Wasps. Click here to purchase your tickets from Ticketmaster. Tickets can also be purchased from the RDS box office from 1pm on Sunday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Wasps boss Dai Young has named his team to take on Leinster in the first round of the European Champions Cup.
The selected side is unchanged from the one that beat Bath 29-22 at home in the Aviva Premiership last weekend, bar England lock Joe Launchbury who returns having been a late withdrawal for the Adams Park clash.
Young’s men lie fifth in the Premiership table after three wins and three defeats. Wasps’ most recent meeting with Leinster saw them lose 48-28 in the last-eight of the Challenge Cup in April 2013.
LEINSTER: Ian Madigan; Zane Kirchner, Gordon D’Arcy, Noel Reid, Darragh Fanning; Jimmy Gopperth, Eoin Reddan; Jack McGrath, Sean Cronin, Michael Bent, Devin Toner, Mike McCarthy, Rhys Ruddock, Dominic Ryan, Jamie Heaslip (capt).
Replacements: Richardt Strauss, Ed Byrne, Tadhg Furlong, Kane Douglas, Jack Conan, Isaac Boss, Mick McGrath, Luke Fitzgerald.
WASPS: Andrea Masi; Christian Wade, Elliot Daly, Alapati Leiua, Sailosi Tagicakibau; Andy Goode, Joe Simpson; Matt Mullan, Carlo Festuccia, Lorenzo Cittadini, Joe Launchbury, Bradley Davies, Ashley Johnson, James Haskell (capt), Nathan Hughes.
Replacements: Tom Lindsay, Simon McIntyre, Jake Cooper-Woolley, James Gaskell, Sam Jones, Charlie Davies, Rob Miller, Chris Bell.
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Neil Hennessy, Simon Rees (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 1/6; Draw: 25/1; Wasps to win: 4/1
Pre-Match Quotes: Matt O’Connor (Leinster) – “We have got the utmost respect for Wasps. They are very well coached. They have put together a very dangerous and capable squad that are delivering in the Premiership. From that end we know what the expectation is. We know what we are going to have to deliver on Sunday.
“(Europe) has been a long time coming. It’s been talked about a lot but the edge in training, the enthusiasm to put out a quality performance first game out at home at the RDS is very exciting.
“The reality of cup rugby is that everything matters. From that end, there is a different level of expectation and understanding. The closest thing to it is Test rugby. Wasps have got a handful of guys who have played Test rugby. We’ve probably got significantly more.
“We have got significantly more experience at cup rugby but it all comes down to the performance on the day. It is about us making sure that we manage every single minute in the game because the game, the pool, the group, the whole scenario can change on one involvement.
“You got to make sure that across the course of it that you are better than them and you win the moment on moment on moment.”
Dai Young (Wasps) – “We have taken a lot of confidence from the performance against Bath and will go to Dublin with plenty of belief that, if we’re on top of our game, we can really compete with the best in Europe, which Leinster are.
“We know how difficult the challenge will be against a side of Leinster’s quality. They have set the benchmark in Europe, having been crowned champions three times and we have huge respect for them.
“They are really strong at the set piece, and we know we will need to get our scrum and lineout right on Sunday and play in the right areas, because they have so many attacking weapons in their team.
“A number of our players haven’t experienced playing at the top level in Europe yet, so there is a huge amount of excitement in the squad at playing Leinster in their own back yard. As you can imagine, it hasn’t been a week where I’ve needed to add anything for motivation!”
Current Form – 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
Wasps – (Aviva Premiership): Lost 34-28 away to Saracens; Won 20-16 at home to Northampton Saints; Lost 26-23 away to Harlequins; Won 35-18 at home to Newcastle Falcons; Lost 25-14 away to Sale Sharks; Won 29-22 at home to Bath
Previous European Meetings: 4
Friday, April 5, 2013 – Challenge Cup Quarter-final – Wasps 28 Leinster 48, Adams Park
Saturday, January 17, 2009 – Pool 2 – London Wasps 19 Leinster 12, Twickenham
Saturday, October 18, 2008 – Pool 2 – Leinster 41 London Wasps 11, the RDS
Saturday, March 31, 2007 – European Cup Quarter-final – London Wasps 35 Leinster 13, Adams Park
European Cup Records:
2013/14: Reached the quarter-finals
2012/13: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
2009/10: Reached the semi-finals
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
2010/11: Failed to qualify from Pool 6
2008/09: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
2007/08: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
2005/06: Failed to qualify from Pool 6
2004/05: Failed to qualify from Pool 1
2001/02: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
2000/01: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
1999/00: Reached the quarter-finals
1997/98: Reached the quarter-finals
1996/97: Failed to qualify from Pool D