The glamour meeting of former champions Leinster and tournament newcomers Racing Metro 92 is a fascinating one to kickstart Saturday’s Heineken Cup action. Joe Schmidt’s men got back on track against Munster, but will need further improvements to beat the star-studded Top 14 leaders.
HEINEKEN CUP: POOL 2: Saturday, October 9
LEINSTER v RACING METRO 92, the RDS, 1.30pm (live Sky Sports 1/HD1)
Team News: Leinster coach Joe Schmidt has made five changes to the team that defeated Munster in last weekend’s historic league clash at the Aviva Stadium.
The fit-again Jonathan Sexton will make his first start of the season and will partner Eoin Reddan at half-back for the visit of Top 14 table toppers, Racing Metro 92.
Reddan takes over from Isaac Boss at scrum half, with Sexton indirectly replacing the benched Shane Horgan.
Gordon D’Arcy will continue his centre partnership with Brian O’Driscoll in a back-line which includes six Ireland internationals as well as Isa Nacewa, who starts on the right wing in place of Horgan.
In the forwards, South African Heinke van der Merwe will make his Heineken Cup debut at loosehead prop, with Cian Healy making way.
The game has come too soon for Leinster’s regular captain Leo Cullen, who is working his way back from a dislocated shoulder.
But flanker Shane Jennings has been passed fit to return from injury. He forms an all-Ireland international back row unit with Sean O’Brien and stand-in skipper Jamie Heaslip.
There are four potential Heineken Cup debutants on the bench, in the form of Jason Harris-Wright, Simon Shawe, Mariano Galarza and Dominic Ryan.
Meanwhile, Racing Metro 92 coach Pierre Berbizier has recalled his big guns for the famous French club’s maiden Heineken Cup match.
There are four personnel changes and two positional switches to the back-line that started last weekend’s 28-23 defeat at Toulouse.
Jerome Fillol comes in for the injured Juan Martin Hernandez, linking with Nicolas Durand at half-back. Sereli Bobo and Julien Saubade return on the wings, with Albert VuliVuli moving across to join Italy international Andrea Masi in midfield.
Fillol and South African full-back Francois Steyn will carry the kicking threat for the visitors.
Showing their strength in depth, only lock Jone Qovu Nailiko and flanker Jacques Cronje remain from the starting pack from the Toulouse game.
French heavyweights Benjamin Noirot, Lionel Nallet and Sebastien Chabal return, along with New Zealander John Leo’o, Italy’s Andrea Lo Cicero and Argentinian Juan Pablo Orlandi.
LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; Isa Nacewa, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald; Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan; Heinke van der Merwe, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, Nathan Hines, Devin Toner, Sean O’Brien, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip (capt).
Replacements: Jason Harris-Wright, Cian Healy, Simon Shawe, Mariano Galarza, Dominic Ryan, Isaac Boss, Fergus McFadden, Shane Horgan.
RACING METRO 92: Francois Steyn; Sereli Bobo, Albert VuliVuli, Andrea Masi, Julien Saubade; Jerome Fillol, Nicolas Durand; Andrea Lo Cicero, Benjamin Noirot, Juan Pablo Orlandi, Lionel Nallet (capt), Jone Qovu Nailiko, John Leo’o, Jacques Cronje, Sebastien Chabal.
Replacements: Carlo Festuccia, Scott Zimmermann, Julien Brugnaut, Santiago Dellape, Mathieu Loree, Mirco Bergamasco, Remi Vaquiin, Antoine Batut.
Referee: David Pearson (England)
Assistant Referees: Rob Debney, Stuart Terheege (both England)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 2/9; Draw: 25/1; Racing Metro 92 to win: 3/1
Pre-Match Quotes: Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster) – “It’s important to get off to a good start and both teams will be under pressure as the pool we’re in is extremely difficult. Every game and every point will be extremely valuable.
“Racing have a massive forward unit and that will be the area where the game is won and lost, as always. We’ll need another performance like our pack gave against Munster last weekend to stand a chance of being on the right side of the result come Saturday.
“There is massive danger behind the scrum as well, and discipline will be paramount as Francois Steyn can punish any ill-discipline, anywhere, within 60 metres. So it’s another huge challenge for us but one we’re relishing.
“Sebastien Chabal…he’s a quality player. Certainly a very talented guy and maybe he gets that extra kudos because of the beard and he stands out a little bit more than other players.
“He’s someone we’d be looking to definitely target and take out of the game, because if we give him ground he’ll certainly take advantage and put them on the front foot. We’ll be looking to get into his face and put him back on his arse really!
“He’s kind of like a talisman for them, so it’s definitely a guy when you’re playing against you look to target him.
“If he gets the better of you then they’ll be on the front foot, whereas if you get in amongst them and spoil it a bit you can get on top.”
Lionel Nallet (Racing Metro 92) – “In previous years when we have watched the Heineken Cup, we have always wanted to be a part of it. Now it will be the case and I couldn’t be happier.
“This year we have a bit more experience as a team. We are still in a building phase. We have only been in the Top 14 for a year but now we are getting our bearings.
“We approach the competition which is unknown to the club, even though some players have already played in the Heineken Cup.
“The intensity of this tournament is a notch (our domestic competition) above and the main difference in the Heineken Cup is that if you make a little mistake, you are almost out.
“We are not apprehensive about it at all, on the contrary, we are eager to compete in this tournament, to face top foreign teams.
“Playing against Leinster won’t be an easy task, but it’s the kind of game all players want to play in.”
Current Form – Leinster – (Magners League): Lost 22-19 away to Glasgow Warriors; Won 34-23 at home to the Cardiff Blues; Lost 29-13 away to Benetton Treviso; Lost 32-24 away to Edinburgh; Won 13-9 at home to Munster
Racing Metro 92 – (Top 14): Won 23-18 away to Brive; Lost 36-19 away to Montpellier; Won 36-31 away to Toulon; Won 28-17 at home to Clermont Auvergne; Lost 31-25 away to Castres Olympique; Won 43-18 at home to La Rochelle; Won 51-20 at home to Bourgoin; Won 17-12 at home to Biarritz Olympique; Lost 28-23 away to Toulouse
Previous European Meetings: 0
Heineken Cup Records:
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
Racing Metro 92 –
2010/11 is their first season in the Heineken Cup