Leinster have a new head coach and a number of new faces, including two Heineken Cup debutants in the back-line, as they embark on another European campaign – regular league rivals, the Ospreys, are their round 1 opponents.
HEINEKEN CUP POOL 1: Saturday, October 12
OSPREYS v LEINSTER, Liberty Stadium, 6pm (live Sky Sports 2 HD/RTÉ Radio 1/highlights TG4)
Team News: The Leinster team to face the Ospreys in Saturday evening’s opening Heineken Cup clash at the Liberty Stadium has been named.
There is a new look at half-back where Ireland scrum half Isaac Boss will link up with Jimmy Gopperth, who makes his first Heineken Cup appearance for the province at out-half.
It is a case of youth and experience in the centre where Leinster’s most-capped player Gordon D’Arcy, who is set to make his 226th appearance, will partner 22-year-old European debutant Brendan Macken.
David Kearney and Fergus McFadden will be joined in a strong back-three by Rob Kearney, who is set for his 135th outing in Leinster colours.
The pack is unchanged from the one that started against Munster last weekend with Jamie Heaslip once more leading the team. The number 8 will be flanked in the back row by Kevin McLaughlin and Sean O’Brien.
Cian Healy will again partner fellow Ireland internationals Sean Cronin and Mike Ross in the front row, with Devin Toner locking down alongside Mike McCarthy.
Incidentally, Ireland duo McLaughlin and McFadden will be making their 99 career appearances for their home province in Swansea.
Meanwhile, Ospreys boss Steve Tandy has made four changes in personnel to the side that started last weekend’s 18-12 loss at home to Ulster.
Ben John has been preferred to Jeff Hassler on the right wing, while prop Duncan Jones, second row James King and flanker Ryan Jones all return up front.
Replacements Tyler Ardron and Hassler are standing by to make their Heineken Cup bows for the regional side.
OSPREYS: Richard Fussell; Ben John, Andrew Bishop, Ashley Beck, Eli Walker; Dan Biggar, Tito Tebaldi; Duncan Jones, Richard Hibbard, Adam Jones, Alun Wyn Jones (capt), James King, Ryan Jones, Justin Tipuric, Joe Bearman.
Replacements: Scott Baldwin, Ryan Bevington, Aaron Jarvis, Tyler Ardron, Sam Lewis, Tom Habberfield, Matthew Morgan, Jeff Hassler.
LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Brendan Macken, Gordon D’Arcy, David Kearney; Jimmy Gopperth, Isaac Boss; Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Mike Ross, Devin Toner, Mike McCarthy, Kevin McLaughlin, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip (capt).
Replacements: Aaron Dundon, Jack McGrath, Martin Moore, Quinn Roux, Rhys Ruddock, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan, Luke Fitzgerald.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referees: Tim Wigglesworth, Paul Dix (both England)
Television Match Official: Geoff Warren (England)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ospreys to win: 4/5; Draw: 20/1; Leinster to win: 11/10
Pre-Match Quotes: Jamie Heaslip (Leinster) – “(Having so many Lions on the pitch) adds a bit more banter, I suppose, at the bottom of a ruck. I didn’t play in the Ospreys game (in the PRO12) but I was ‘waterboying’ the life out of it on the sideline.
“I got chatting away to a couple of them (the Ospreys’ Lions players) and they were in good form. I was slightly jealous that I wasn’t back playing and they were.
“But I suppose you learn little things about how they go about their business. You always learn more playing with a guy than playing against him. So you pick up a couple of things of how they go about their business.
“I respected ‘Tips’ (Justin Tipuric) a lot before from having played against him but even more so after playing with him. The guy is an absolute workhorse and he’s a nightmare around the breakdown.
“He’s great when he’s on your team. But he’s going to be a massive challenge for us, as well as the rest of them. But you just learn a lot more about players, and you get a lot more respect for them.”
Steve Tandy (Ospreys) – “It’s been a good preparation week for us and we’re all really looking forward to Saturday as a group. It’s an exciting time for anybody involved with rugby, as a player, coach or supporter, as the Heineken Cup always brings with it great contests, excitement and drama, and we are itching to get started.
“We know what Leinster will bring to us as familiar foes from the PRO12 but you can’t underestimate what they have achieved in Europe over the last five years. They’ve got a fantastic record and have quality right through the squad, including five 2013 Lions. It really doesn’t get much tougher.
“After disappointing a big crowd last weekend, we have to move up several levels on Saturday night. We’ve got big game players in the group who I know will respond to the challenge, and it’s important that they’ve got another big crowd behind them to feed off.
“It’s going to be the biggest crowd of the season which is fantastic news. We need them to generate a special Liberty atmosphere.
“We’ve had some great European nights there over the years and this can be right up there on the list if we get it together, on and off the field. It should be a pretty special occasion.”
Current Form – Ospreys – (RaboDirect PRO12): Won 24-19 away to Benetton Treviso; Drew 29-29 away to Leinster; Won 44-10 at home to Edinburgh; Won 43-26 away to Connacht; Lost 18-12 at home to Ulster
Leinster – (RaboDirect PRO12): Won 42-19 away to the Scarlets; Drew 29-29 at home to the Ospreys; Lost 12-6 away to Glasgow Warriors; Won 34-20 at home to the Cardiff Blues; Lost 19-15 away to Munster
Previous European Meetings: 0
Match Facts And Figures –
– Leinster are meeting the Ospreys in the Heineken Cup for the first time. The Welsh region have played Irish provinces on seven occasions in the tournament, winning three and losing four
– The Ospreys were undefeated in the tournament last term at the Liberty Stadium, while Leinster have won their last 11 Heineken Cup matches against Welsh regions
– Despite failing to make it out of the pool stages, Leinster had the best tackle success rate (92%) in the Heineken Cup last season
– Leinster averaged fewer kicks from hand (17.5) than any other side in the Heineken Cup during the 2012/13 campaign
– Only two players (Napolioni Nalaga and Wesley Fofana of Clermont Auvergne) beat more defenders than Ospreys winger Eli Walker last season (23)
– Justin Tipuric totalled nine turnovers for the Welsh region last season – only Rory Best of Ulster (14) secured more in the 2012/13 tournament
– Leinster have lost just two of their last 10 away games in the competition with both defeats coming at the hands of Clermont Auvergne
– The Ospreys have lost just one of their last 22 home games in the Heineken Cup
Heineken Cup Records:
2012/13: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
2011/12: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
2010/11: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2009/10: Reached the quarter-finals
2008/09: Reached the quarter-finals
2007/08: Reached the quarter-finals
2006/07: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2005/06: Failed to qualify from Pool 3
2004/05: Failed to qualify from Pool 4
2003/04: Failed to qualify from Pool 2
2012/13: Failed to qualify from Pool 5
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