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Heineken Cup Preview: Clermont Auvergne v Leinster

Heineken Cup Preview: Clermont Auvergne v Leinster

The Irish provinces have gained three wins so far in the third round of the Heineken Cup’s pool stages. Defending champions Leinster are the final team to play, facing familiar foes Clermont Auvergne in a fascinating Sunday afternoon duel.

HEINEKEN CUP POOL 5: Sunday, December 9

CLERMONT AUVERGNE (1st) v LEINSTER (2nd), Stade Marcel Michelin, 4pm local time/3pm Irish time (live Sky Sports 2/HD2/FR2/Newstalk/highlights TG4)

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Team News: The Leinster team to face Clermont Auvergne in Sunday’s crunch Heineken Cup round 3 clash at the Stade Marcel Michelin has been named.

Head coach Joe Schmidt has kept faith with ten of the players who started last weekend’s bonus point victory over Zebre in the RaboDirect PRO12.

Ian Madigan resumes at full-back where he started both of Leinster’s opening two wins in Pool 5 over Exeter Chiefs and the Scarlets. His inclusion, at the expense of Andrew Conway, sees Isa Nacewa reverting to the left wing.

New Zealander Andrew Goodman makes his Heineken Cup debut in the centre alongside Gordon D’Arcy, who this weekend will become the province’s most-capped player in tournament history.

Sunday’s match will represent D’Arcy’s 88th Heineken Cup appearance. Inside him, it is also a landmark day for Jonathan Sexton who will reach 100 Leinster caps. He is joined at half-back by Isaac Boss.

Up front, props Cian Healy and Mike Ross return to starting roles with hooker Sean Cronin getting the nod over recent Ireland debutant Richardt Strauss.

It will be Cronin’s fourth Heineken Cup start for Leinster. Leo Cullen leads the team from the second row alongside Damian Browne, who is the only member of the starting pack without Ireland senior honours.

Number 8 Jamie Heaslip is another frontliner returning to the starting line-up. Fresh from captaining Ireland in the GUINNESS Series, he links up once more with Kevin McLaughlin and the fit-again Sean O’Brien.

Compared to the Leinster side that started last season’s semi-final against Clermont Auvergne, there are six changes in personnel with injured duo Brian O’Driscoll and Rob Kearney the most notable absentees.

Meanwhile, team captain Aurélien Rougerie and Morgan Parra are the only survivors from the Clermont Auvergne back-line that started the 30-22 league defeat to Toulouse.

Wales and Lions full-back Lee Byrne returns along with fellow regulars Sitiveni Sivivatu, Wesley Fofana, Napolioni Nalaga and out-half Brock James.

It is the same back-line that ran in three tries in the pool opener against the Scarlets and a further five in round 2 against Exeter Chiefs.

The front row trio of Vincent Debaty, Benjamin Kayser and Davit Zirakashvili, who were all benched against Toulouse last weekend, resume in the starting pack with former Leinster lock Nathan Hines combining with Jamie Cudmore in the second row.

Julien Bonnaire, a try scorer against the Scarlets, resumes in the back row along with Alexandre Lapandry and strong-carrying number 8 Damien Chouly.

CLERMONT AUVERGNE: Lee Byrne; Sitiveni Sivivatu, Aurélien Rougerie (capt), Wesley Fofana, Napolioni Nalaga; Brock James, Morgan Parra; Vincent Debaty, Benjamin Kayser, Davit Zirakashvili, Jamie Cudmore, Nathan Hines, Julien Bonnaire, Alexandre Lapandry, Damien Chouly.

Replacements: Ti’i Paulo, Raphael Chaume, Daniel Kotze, Julien Pierre, Julien Bardy, Ludovic Radoslavjevic, David Skrela, Regan King.

LEINSTER: Ian Madigan; Fergus McFadden, Gordon D’Arcy, Andrew Goodman, Isa Nacewa; Jonathan Sexton, Isaac Boss; Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Mike Ross, Leo Cullen (capt), Damian Browne, Kevin McLaughlin, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements: Richardt Strauss, Jack McGrath, Michael Bent, Devin Toner, Shane Jennings, Eoin Reddan, Fionn Carr, Andrew Conway.

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Sean Brickell, Jonathan Mason (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Derek Bevan (Wales)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Clermont Auvergne to win: 4/11; Draw: 20/1; Leinster to win: 9/4

Pre-Match Quotes: Joe Schmidt (Leinster) – “The reality is that anyone can win on the day. We’re going over there, knowing that is the case. Odds can sometimes be stacked against you, but that is not something we haven’t faced up to before.

“We’ve come out after half-time facing a big deficit and managed to get over the top and win games. We’ve managed to go places and compete where we’ve had to scramble to get whatever points we can get.

“We have a reasonable fighting chance and we will go there with that attitude in mind. I would say there is a reality there. But there is also a definite resolve to do what we need to get a result.

“There is only so many times that can happen. But we like to think there is one more in us.”

Vern Cotter (Clermont Auvergne) – “Qualifying from the pool will depend on this double header. They, as we have done, have long marked this date in the calendar.

“My players are very excited, focused and motivated by the idea of playing this match. Leinster are a team who control the ball well and play with a lot of speed. They’re used to big matches and this competition.

“With a two-point deficit on us, they know that they don’t have any other solution than to go away with a result here.

“I know Joe (Schmidt) well and I’m sure he’ll try to move the ball around. We’ll have to be ready to adapt by remaining focused and accurate.”

Current Form – Clermont Auvergne – (Top 14 Championship): Won 13-6 away to Bayonne; Lost 13-8 away to Montpellier; Won 53-31 at home to Perpignan; Won 13-12 at home to Racing Metro 92; Won 14-6 away to Mont-de-Marsan; Won 44-20 at home to Grenoble; Won 28-25 at home to Stade Francais; Lost 16-13 away to Castres Olympique; (Heineken Cup): Won 49-16 at home to the Scarlets; Won 46-12 away to Exeter Chiefs; (Top 14 Championship): Won 19-12 at home to Biarritz Olympique; Won 18-11 away to Agen; Won 24-21 at home to Toulon; Lost 30-22 away to Toulouse

Leinster – (RaboDirect PRO12): Lost 45-20 away to the Scarlets; Won 45-25 at home to the Newport Gwent Dragons; Won 19-18 away to Benetton Treviso; Won 22-16 at home to Edinburgh; Lost 34-6 away to Connacht; Won 30-21 at home to Munster; (Heineken Cup): Won 9-6 at home to Exeter Chiefs; Won 20-13 away to the Scarlets; (RaboDirect PRO12): Won 59-22 at home to the Cardiff Blues; Lost 19-10 away to the Ospreys; Won 6-0 away to Glasgow Warriors; Won 37-7 at home to Zebre

Previous European Meetings: 6

Saturday, December 7, 2002 – Pool 4 – Montferrand 20 Leinster 23, Stade Marcel Michelin
Friday, December 13, 2002 – Pool 4 – Leinster 12 Montferrand 9, Donnybrook
Friday, April 9, 2010 – Quarter-final – Leinster 29 Clermont Auvergne 28, the RDS
Sunday, December 12, 2010 – Pool 2 – Clermont Auvergne 20 Leinster 13, Stade Marcel Michelin
Saturday, December 18, 2010 – Pool 2 – Leinster 24 Clermont Auvergne 8, Aviva Stadium
Sunday, April 29, 2012 – Semi-final – Clermont Auvergne 15 Leinster 19, Stade Chaban-Delmas

Match Facts And Figures –

– The French team average the most carries and have gained the most ground per match so far, racking up 134 carries per match at a gain of 645 metres

– Conversely, the best attack in the competition meets the best defence as Leinster have missed only eight tackles in 160 minutes of rugby so far. They have completed 97% of attempted tackles

– Clermont Auvergne’s Damien Chouly has made a competition high 33 carries so far this season

– If Gordon D’Arcy plays, he will make his 88th appearance in the Heineken Cup and will move ahead of Shane Horgan as the Leinster player with the most tournament appearances

Heineken Cup Records:

Clermont Auvergne –
2011/12: Reached the semi-finals
2010/11: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
2009/10: Reached the quarter-finals
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

Leinster –
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