Leinster will put their unbeaten Pool 3 record on the line just six days after winning away in Bath. Joe Schmidt’s men are aiming to be much more clinical with ball in hand in front of a bumper crowd at the Aviva Stadium.
HEINEKEN CUP: POOL 3: Saturday, December 17
LEINSTER (1st) v BATH (3rd), Aviva Stadium, 6pm (live Sky Sports 1/HD1)
Team News: The Leinster team to face Bath in Saturday evening’s Heineken Cup round 4 clash at the Aviva Stadium has been named.
There are four changes in personnel to the team that beat Bath last weekend with Eoin Reddan, fresh from winning his 50th Leinster cap at the Rec, partnering Jonathan Sexton at half-back.
Shane Jennings comes into the back row alongside fellow Ireland internationals Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip, while Devin Toner partners another Ireland international, skipper Leo Cullen, in the second row.
Luke Fitzgerald continues in the back-three alongside Rob Kearney and Isa Nacewa, and Eoin O’Malley, who will make his 40th Leinster appearance on Saturday, combines in the centre with Fergus McFadden for the first time in the Heineken Cup.
Gordon D’Arcy, limited by a minor niggle in training earlier this week, will provide extra firepower from a replacements bench which includes six Ireland internationals.
With over 46,000 tickets now sold, Saturday evening’s fixture will be played in front of the second largest crowd for a pool match in the history of the Heineken Cup, surpassing the attendance figure (45,892) at Saracens v Leinster at Wembley Stadium last season.
There are tickets still available online here and from the Leinster Rugby Store (Donnybrook), Spar (Donnybrook) and Ticketmaster outlets nationwide.
A charity text campaign has been running this week where Leinster supporters are being asked to text a donation of €;2.50 to help raise essential funds for Leinster’s five chosen charities for this season – Action Breast Cancer, Barretstown, Bray Lakers, St. John Ambulance and Welcome Home.
Simply text the word LEINSTER to 57800 and as well as helping five great charities, all fans who lend their support to the campaign will be automatically entered into a draw to win an all-expenses paid trip for two (including flights, accommodation and match tickets) on the team charter to the round 5 Heineken Cup game away to Glasgow Warriors in January.
(€;2.50 per text. Network charges vary. A minimum of *€;1.20 (ex VAT) goes towards Leinster’s five chosen charities. SP Phonovation Ltd. 0818217100. Please note any donations made on the 17/12/2011will raise €;1.73 per text).
Meanwhile, Bath’s Ian McGeechan has named a virtually unchanged side for this return fixture, giving the thumbs up to the side that tested the regining Heineken Cup champions in the previous round.
David Flatman, Chris Biller and David Wilson continue in the front row, with Dave Attwood and former Ulster lock Ryan Caldwell combining in the second row.
Captain Francois Louw, who was yellow carded late on last weekend, is stationed on the blindside, with Guy Mercer at openside and Scotland’s Simon Taylor at number 8 completing the pack.
Michael Claassens and Stephen Donald continue their half-back partnership. The only change to the starting line-up comes in the backs where Dan Hipkiss has been ruled out with a knock picked up last Sunday.
Matt Banahan, Bath’s second half try scorer against Leinster, shifts from the wing to outside centre, with Nick Abendanon reverting to the left wing and Sam Vesty coming in at full-back.
There is a welcome return to the bench for Ross Batty and Ben Williams who both come back into the squad following time out with injuries.
LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; Isa Nacewa, Eoin O’Malley, Fergus McFadden, Luke Fitzgerald; Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan; Heinke van der Merwe, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, Leo Cullen (capt), Devin Toner, Sean O’Brien, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Cian Healy, Nathan White, Kevin McLaughlin, Rhys Ruddock, Isaac Boss, Ian Madigan, Gordon D’Arcy.
BATH: Sam Vesty; Jack Cuthbert, Matt Banahan, Olly Barkley, Nick Abendanon; Stephen Donald, Michael Claassens; David Flatman, Chris Biller, David Wilson, Dave Attwood, Ryan Caldwell, Francois Louw (capt), Guy Mercer, Simon Taylor.
Replacements: Ross Batty, Nathan Catt, Anthony Perenise, Will Spencer, Andy Beattie, Chris Cook, Tom Heathcote, Ben Williams.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant Referees: Patrick Pechambert, Eric Soulan (both France)
Television Match Official: Daniel Gillet (France)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 1/20; Draw: 33/1; Bath to win: 9/1
Pre-Match Quotes: Mike Ross (Leinster) – “We have a good win ratio at the Aviva Stadium – we have not lost there in the Heineken Cup – and it is great to be playing at the home of Irish rugby.
“The win in Bath means things are in our own hands so it is up to us to get another win this Saturday to keep accumulating points and keep us in the mix for a home quarter-final.
“It was tough work last Sunday – the Rec is a hard place to come away from with a win – and, although we probably left a few tries behind, getting the win was vital.
“And we expect nothing less than another hard-fought game against them on Saturday. English clubs turn up whatever their position in the pool and Bath will be no different.”
Ian McGeechan (Bath) – “It’s 80 minutes to have a real go. We will back ourselves to play, just as we did last weekend, because there was nobody more annoyed than us with our performances against Worcester in the Premiership and the second half against Sale.
“We’d been pretty up front with each other about those performances. There aren’t many times you can go and play in front of 45,00 people at Lansdowne Road and you’ve got to be excited by that.
“The players have got to make the most of it. It’s a big challenge this weekend. They will be trying to suss us out, we’ll be trying to suss them out and we are into an international stadium with nearly 50,000 Irishmen.”
Current Form – Leinster – (RaboDirect PRO12): Lost 27-3 away to the Ospreys; Won 31-10 at home to the Newport Gwent Dragons; Lost 23-19 at home to Glasgow Warriors; Won 15-10 away to the Scarlets; Won 26-7 at home to Aironi Rugby; Won 30-20 at home to Connacht; Won 36-28 away to Edinburgh; Won 24-19 at home to Munster; (Heineken Cup): Drew 16-16 with Montpellier; Won 38-13 at home to Glasgow Warriors; (RaboDirect PRO12): Won 30-20 away to Benetton Treviso; Won 52-9 at home to the Cardiff Blues; (Heineken Cup): Won 18-13 away to Bath
Bath – (Aviva Premiership): Won 22-9 away to Newcastle Falcons; Lost 28-26 at home to Saracens; Won 23-19 at home to Exeter Chiefs; Lost 23-6 away to Gloucester; Won 26-25 at home to Leicester Tigers; Lost 27-24 away to London Wasps; (LV= Cup): Won 46-16 away to the Newport Gwent Dragons; Won 46-13 at home to Worcester Warriors; (Aviva Premiership): Won 13-12 away to London Irish; Lost 26-13 at home to Harlequins; (Heineken Cup): Lost 26-21 away to Glasgow Warriors; Won 16-13 at home to Montpellier; (Aviva Premiership): Lost 16-7 away to Worcester Warriors; Lost 16-13 at home to Sale Sharks; (Heineken Cup): Lost 18-13 at home to Leinster
Top Scorers – 2011/12 Heineken Cup: Leinster – Points: Jonathan Sexton 40; Tries: Eoin O’Malley 2; Bath – Points: Tom Heathcote 18; Tries: Olly Woodburn, David Flatman, Matt Banahan 1 each
Previous European Meetings: 5
Sunday, December 11, 2011 – Pool 3 – Bath 13 Leinster 18, Recreation Ground
Sunday, January 22, 2006 – Pool 5 – Bath 23 Leinster 35, Recreation Ground
Saturday, October 22, 2005 – Pool 5 – Leinster 19 Bath 22, the RDS
Saturday, January 8, 2005 – Pool 2 – Bath 23 Leinster 27, Recreation Ground
Saturday, October 30, 2004 – Pool 2 – Leinster 30 Bath 11, Lansdowne Road
Heineken Cup Records:
2010/11: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2009/10: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2008/09: Reached the quarter-finals
2005/06: Reached the semi-finals
2004/05: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
2001/02: Reached the quarter-finals
2000/01: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
1999/00: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
1996/97: Reached the quarter-finals
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