11th November 2011 23:35
Barely five short months after their remarkable Heineken Cup triumph in Cardiff, Leinster will embark on their defence of European rugby’s premier trophy with an opening round trip to tournament newcomers Montpellier.
MONTPELLIER v LEINSTER, Stade de la Mosson, 2.30pm local time/1.30pm Irish time (live Sky Sports 1/HD1)
Team News: The Leinster team to face Montpellier in Saturday’s opening round of the Heineken Cup at Stade de la Mosson has been named.
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Heinke van der Merwe is set to make his 40th appearance for Leinster, starting in the front row alongside Richardt Strauss and Mike Ross for the province’s first ever Heineken Cup meeting with Montpellier.
Cian Healy tweaked a muscle in his glute in training and the management have decided to err on the side of caution.
In all, the inclusion of the Springbok prop is one of three changes to the pack that started last weekend’s 24-19 derby victory over Munster.
Former Brive lock Damian Browne comes into the second row for his seventh Leinster appearance of the season, taking over from the benched Devin Toner.
Kevin McLaughlin, a replacement at the Aviva Stadium last weekend, joins fellow Ireland internationals Jamie Heaslip and Sean O’Brien in the back row.
The back-line is unchanged which means that Jonathan Sexton, who amassed 138 points in last season’s successful European campaign, lines up alongside Isaac Boss at half back.
Gordon D’Arcy partners Fergus McFadden in the centre with Luke Fitzgerald linking up with Rob Kearney and Isa Nacewa in the back-three.
Shane Jennings is one of four Ireland internationals on the bench alongside Sean Cronin, Eoin Reddan and Toner.
Meanwhile, Montpellier will be eager to get stuck into the defending champions especially after their French Championship game against Lyon was postponed last weekend.
Out-half Francois Trinh-Duc and flanker Fulgence Ouedraogo both return from Rugby World Cup duty with France, while powerful back rowers Mamuka Gorgordze (Georgia) and Masi Matadigo (Fiji) also saw action in New Zealand.
Thibaut Privat is joined in the second row by Mickael Demarco, while the front row has had a complete change from the recent Top 14 defeat to Agen.
Argentinian duo Agustin Creevy and Maximiliano Bustos come in along with Samoan Na’ama Leleimalefaga. There are also some accomplished forwards on the bench, including back rower Rémy Martin.
In the backs, Trinh-Duc will have Benoit Paillaugue alongside him at half-back, the goal-kicking scrum half will be celebrating his 24th birthday next week. Former Ulster winger Timoci Nagusa is another notable inclusion on the right wing.
MONTPELLIER: Lucas Amorosino; Timoci Nagusa, Geoffrey Doumayrou, Santiago Fernandez, Yoan Audrin; Francois Trinh-Duc, Benoit Paillaugue; Na’ama Leleimalefaga, Agustin Creevy, Maximiliano Bustos, Mickael Demarco, Thibaut Privat, Fulgence Ouedraogo, Mamuka Gorgodze, Masi Matadigo.
Replacements: Rassie Jansen Van Vuuren, Mikheil Nariashvili, George Jgenti, Drickus Hancke, Rémy Martin, Julien Tomas, Paul Bosch, Martin Bustos Moyano.
LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; Isa Nacewa, Fergus McFadden, Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald; Jonathan Sexton, Isaac Boss; Heinke van der Merwe, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, Leo Cullen (capt), Damian Browne, Kevin McLaughlin, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath, Nathan White, Devin Toner, Shane Jennings, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan, Eoin O’Malley.
Referee: Dave Pearson (England)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Montpellier to win: 13/8; Draw: 20/1; Leinster to win: 8/15
Pre-Match Quotes: Leo Cullen (Leinster) – “It will be a really tough opener in Montpellier. They had an unbelievable home record in the Top 14 last season.
“They were within 10 to 15 minutes of beating Toulouse in the French final last season and then only lost by less than a score. They are going to be a very tough proposition and everyone in our pool has strong home records.
“It is almost a given that in the Heineken Cup you have to win your home games so you ask yourself where you are going to pick up an away win?
“It is tough to see where that can come from though we will have an opportunity straight away against Montpellier.
“The key, once again, will be to keep your destiny in your own hands and after playing at some fantastic venues last season – the Aviva Stadium and Millennium Stadium – Twickenham is another amazing venue and it would be great to make it that far.”
Fabien Galthie (Montpellier) – “Brian O’Driscoll won’t be in the team, but they have so many talented players we aren’t focusing on the absence of Brian O’Driscoll. It’s not a matter of interest for us because we know whoever plays instead of Brian O’Driscoll will be a top player.
“I’m trying to manage my team to win the game because in the Heineken Cup you have to win your home games to qualify.
“We’re not just looking to turn up and see how we play, we really are focusing on doing everything we can to win this game.
“Leinster have developed the ability to play an international game and so for us Leinster is the best team in Europe at the moment. They really play a wide game, full-scale, no limitations and at full speed.
“I’m very impressed by the way they play the game. Playing against Leinster will give us the opportunity to learn if Montpellier is on the same level, close to the highest level or if we have a long way to go to reach the top.”
Current Form – Montpellier – (Top 14 Championship): Lost 30-22 away to Racing Metro 92; Lost 28-12 at home to Brive; Drew 19-19 away to Stade Francais; Lost 19-12 away to Perpignan; Lost 20-16 at home to Bordeaux-Begles; Won 19-6 at home to Toulon; Won 26-17 away to Bayonne; Lost 21-16 at home to Castres Olympique; Lost 18-12 away to Agen
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
Previous European Meetings: 0
Heineken Cup Records:
2011/12 is their first season in the Heineken Cup
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