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Heineken Cup Preview: Leinster v Exeter Chiefs

Heineken Cup Preview: Leinster v Exeter Chiefs

Tournament newcomers Exeter face a daunting task at the RDS. In the blue corner are the defending Heineken Cup champions Leinster, with head coach Joe Schmidt having guided the province to back-to-back titles and 16 wins in 18 European outings.

HEINEKEN CUP POOL 5: Saturday, October 13

LEINSTER v EXETER CHIEFS, the RDS, 3.40pm (live Sky Sports 1/HD1/Canal+ Sport/highlights TG4)

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Team News: The Leinster team to face Exeter Chiefs in the opening round of the Heineken Cup at the RDS on Saturday afternoon has been named.

Cian Healy, who has recovered from a bicep injury, will make his 100th Leinster appearance in Saturday’s Pool 5 opener.

The 25-year-old loosehead prop will start in the front row alongside Richardt Strauss, the try-scoring man-of-the-match from the derby win over Munster, and Mike Ross.

Skipper Leo Cullen returns to partners Damian Browne in the second row with Kevin McLaughlin fit enough to continue in the back row alongside Shane Jennings and number 8 Jamie Heaslip.

The back-line is unchanged from the one that started the Munster game with Fergus McFadden partnering Brian O’Driscoll in the centre and Isa Nacewa, on the left wing, making his 33rd Heineken Cup appearance.

Rob Kearney, who is nursing a back injury, trained well on Thursday but pulled up sore afterwards, so Ian Madigan will continue at full-back for his second Heineken Cup start.

Both Kearney and Gordon D’Arcy are expected to be available for selection for the round 2 trip to Llanelli next weekend.

Scrum half Isaac Boss has recovered from the arm injury he sustained in early September and takes his place amongst the replacements alongside fellow Ireland internationals Sean Cronin and Devin Toner.

The last remaining tickets for the Leinster v Exeter Chiefs tie are on sale online here, and are also available to purchase from the Leinster Rugby Store (Donnybrook) and Spar (Donnybrook).

Meanwhile, there are three Irish players in the Exetef Chiefs team for their historic first Heineken Cup outing – winger Ian Whitten, out-half Gareth Steenson and lock and captain Tom Hayes..

The Chiefs travel to Dublin buoyed by a 42-28 home win over defending English Premiership champions Harlequins.

Exeter boss Rob Baxter has stuck with virtually the same side that saw off Harlequins at Sandy Park. The two changes come in the pack where John Hayes’ younger brother Tom returns in place of Dean Mumm.

James Scaysbrook is also back at openside flanker in place of the injured Ben White.

On the bench, Chris Whitehead – another who missed out last week – returns at the expense of Neil Clark, while Aussie international Mumm remains within the squad as an option both in the second row and back row.

LEINSTER: Ian Madigan; Andrew Conway, Brian O’Driscoll, Fergus McFadden, Isa Nacewa; Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, Leo Cullen (capt), Damian Browne, Kevin McLaughlin, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements: Sean Cronin, Heinke van der Merwe, Jamie Hagan, Devin Toner, Leo Auva’a, Jordi Murphy, Isaac Boss, Fionn Carr.

EXETER CHIEFS: Luke Arscott; Ian Whitten, Phil Dollman, Jason Shoemark, Matt Jess; Gareth Steenson, Haydn Thomas; Brett Sturgess, Simon Alcott, Carl Rimmer, Tom Hayes (capt), James Hanks, Tom Johnson, James Scaysbrook, Richard Baxter.

Replacements: Chris Whitehead, Chris Budgen, Ben Moon, Ally Muldowney, Dean Mumm, Will Chudley, Ignacio Mieres, Sireli Naqelevuki.

Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant Referees: Jean-Luc Rebollal, Cyril Lafon (both France)
Television Match Official: Daniel Irazoqui (France)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 1/20; Draw: 30/1; Exeter Chiefs to win: 9/1

Pre-Match Quotes: Joe Schmidt (Leinster) – “Right now, our sole initial target is to get out of the pool. It is such a competitive pool that I think only one team will qualify for the quarter-finals, so I am not thinking about anything beyond our first match against Exeter.

“We have not played Exeter before but we are fully expecting them to be both extremely combative and expansive.

“They are a really positive outfit and in Ignacio Mieres they have a fine fly-half who can vary the team’s game as necessary.

“Centre Jason Shoemark is another in top form and Wallaby Dean Mumm – a very athletic lock and genuine international class player – has now arrived at the club and is sure to be a big player for them.

“Their coach Rob Baxter has done a great job in first getting them promoted and then taking them storming through the English league and into the Heineken Cup for the first time.”

Rob Baxter (Exeter Chiefs) – “It’s going to be fantastic. We have always talked from the moment we got in the Premiership that every experience we had, we would try and hit it full on. For us, this is just the next step.

“Of course I’m expecting it (the pool) to be very tough, but I hope it is. I hope the intensity is very high because ultimately we are only going to improve as individuals and as a team by experiencing tough things.

“I know talking here now that sounds a bit strange, but I don’t think there is any point being in any competition where you think you are going to struggle.

“For a lot of the squad, it’s going to be a new experience, which I hope will make us a better team.

“I want us in three or four weeks’ time, when we’ve come through these first two games against Leinster and Clermont Auvergne, to look at one another and say, ‘I think I’m a better player or a better coach having had these experiences’.”

Current Form – 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

Exeter Chiefs – (Aviva Premiership): Won 43-6 at home to Sale Sharks; Lost 24-21 away to Northampton Saints; Lost 25-24 away to London Welsh; Won 14-12 at home to Saracens; Lost 30-8 away to Leicester Tigers; Won 42-28 at home to Harlequins

Previous European Meetings: 0

Heineken Cup Records:

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

Exeter Chiefs –