A home quarter-final is on the line for Leinster as they travel to the north west suburbs of Paris for their final Pool 2 match. Hosts Racing Metro 92 stand in their way, keen to finish their first Heineken Cup campaign on a winning note.
HEINEKEN CUP: POOL 2: Friday, January 21
RACING METRO 92 (3rd) v LEINSTER (1st), Stade Yves du Manoir, 9pm local time/8pm Irish time (live Sky Sports 1/HD 1)
Team News: The Leinster team to face Racing Metro 92 in Friday night’s Heineken Cup Pool 2 match at Stade Yves du Manoir has been named.
Head coach Joe Schmidt has made three changes in personnel to the team that gained a six-try 43-20 victory over Saracens at the RDS last Saturday.
Gordon D’Arcy has recovered from a calf strain and returns at inside centre, at the expense of Fergus McFadden who was a try scorer against Sarries.
The other change in the back-line sees Isaac Boss return at scrum half, replacing Eoin Reddan who will provide back-up on the bench.
Up front, fresh from his call-up to the Ireland RBS 6 Nations squad, Rhys Ruddock comes into the back row alongside Sean O’Brien and Shane Jennings, who both committed their immediate futures to the province earlier this week.
Flanker Jennings will make his 50th Heineken Cup appearance on Friday and will be the 14th Leinster player to reach the landmark, combining his games for Leinster (32 caps) and Leicester Tigers (17).
He joins fellow ‘Elite 50 Club’ team-mates Shane Horgan (83), Gordon D’Arcy (73), Brian O’Driscoll (71), Leo Cullen (68) and Nathan Hines (57).
Jamie Heaslip remains on the sidelines due to an ankle injury, while there is a doubt over replacement Eoin O’Malley (ill). A decision on his availability will be made closer to kick-off.
With their place in the quarter-finals already secured, Leinster will now aim for a home draw in the last-eight of European rugby’s premier tournament.
Brian O’Driscoll is clearly revelling in how Leinster are playing at the moment and the approach adopted by Joe Schmidt in his first season in charge.
“The great thing about Joe is that he doesn’t pick on reputation, that’s the right way to go about it,” he said.
“It’s a bit different from previous seasons, there were times maybe when it might have been easier to get into teams but now the tougher it gets sometimes the more enjoyable it gets.
“That’s the way you need to have it. Reputation doesn’t count for anything if you’re not producing. 10 years down the track, I am definitely enjoying training but I’m conscious that I need to produce it every time I’m on the training pitch or in a match.”
He added: “I’ve seen the performances that Eoin (O’Malley) and Fergus (McFadden) have been putting in this season and it’s great.
“The reason I’m enjoying it so much is because of the competition and the brand (of rugby) we’re playing. It’s fun coming in every day, we have a really good balance of younger and older guys and there is a great work ethic.
“That balance is good, (blend of) leaders, guys with plenty of experience and then young guys not afraid to speak and let their voice be heard.
“It’s where we want to be but we’re a team constantly evolving, the second you think you’re great is the second that you head on a downward spiral. The next opportunity we get to prove we’re a decent team is Friday.”
Meanwhile, Racing Metro 92 will field a team showing three changes to the one that lined in out in last weekend’s 28-17 loss at Clermont Auvergne.
The back-line, marshalled by Argentinian star Juan Martin Hernandez and influential scrum half Nicolas Durand, is unchanged. Hernandez continues at out-half in place of suspended top scorer Jonathan Wisniewski.
In the front row, Gregory Arganese and Scott Zimmerman come in for Carlo Festuccia and Benjamin Sa, while Italian international Santiago Dellape replaces Karim Ghezal in the second row.
Racing Metro’s quarter-final hopes were ended at Stade Marcel Michelin last Friday, and they face a crucial Top 14 clash at the same venue next Wednesday.
With that in mind, head coach Pierre Berbizier has kept Lionel Nallet and Francois Steyn on the bench and the enigmatic Sebastien Chabal has been rested.
Indeed, of the side that lost to Leinster 38-22 at the RDS, only Durand, Andrea Masi and Julien Saubade are retained.
RACING METRO 92: Dan Scarbrough; Benjamin Fall, Virimi Vakatawa, Andrea Masi, Julien Saubade; Juan Martin Hernandez, Nicolas Durand (capt); Julien Brugnaut, Gregory Arganese, Scott Zimmerman, Santiago Dellape, Francois van der Merwe, Remi Vaquin, Bernard Le Roux, Alvaro Galindo.
Replacements: Benjamin Noirot, Andrea Lo Cicero, Benjamin Sa, Lionel Nallet, Mathieu Loree, Francois Steyn, Jacques Cronje, Antoine Battut.
LEINSTER: Isa Nacewa; Shane Horgan, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald; Jonathan Sexton, Isaac Boss; Cian Healy, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, Leo Cullen (capt), Nathan Hines, Rhys Ruddock, Shane Jennings, Sean O’Brien.
Replacements: Jason Harris-Wright, Heinke van der Merwe, Clint Newland, Devin Toner, Dominic Ryan, Eoin Reddan, Eoin O’Malley/Ian Madigan, Fergus McFadden.
Referee: Andrew Small (England)
Assistant Referees: Chris White, Stuart Terheege (both England)
Television Match Official: Graham Hughes (England)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Racing Metro 92 to win: 17/10; Draw: 20/1; Leinster to win: 4/9
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Pre-Match Quotes: Eoin Reddan (Leinster) – “We have often spoken about the experiences of Irish teams in Europe and we know how important it is to have a home quarter-final in this competition.
“It is huge. We have to produce a very big performance on Friday night to get the win. Racing are a very proud team at home. All French teams are, regardless of what is coming next.
“They have a lot of big names in their squad who all want to compete for places, so they will be competitive at home.
“At scrum half you have Jerome Fillol or Nicolas Durand, both very good players. At out-half you have got Juan Martin Hernandez, and they have massive ball carriers across the pitch, with some clever players in behind.
“There is massive competition across our squad, which is great and guys know this competition and the way it goes. You can’t win anything in January, you can only lose something.
“Leinster are a very successful team, but there are a lot of people in this dressing room who have won nothing for Leinster, myself included.
“When someone asks what you have added to Leinster, until you have got a medal and a trophy to show for it, you can’t really put your hand up and say you have added anything.
“We were trophy-less last season. I know we had a few new signings and we have a few more this year, so if we have a trophy at the end of the year, then a few of us can put our hands up. Until that day, that’s the way it is.
“You are trying to work out what team you are playing, if you lose on Friday, if you win on Friday. The quarter-finals, the way the seedings are working out, will be huge games.
“There are going to be eight teams there all capable of winning it. You are guaranteed six big hitters (in terms of the pool winners) no matter what, so it is going to be very tough.”
Current Form – 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; (Heineken Cup): Lost 38-22 away to Leinster; Won 16-9 at home to Clermont Auvergne; (Top 14): Won 15-9 at home to Bayonne; Drew 18-18 at home to Perpignan; Lost 21-20 away to Agen; Won 15-13 at home to Stade Francais; (Heineken Cup): Won 24-21 away to Saracens; Lost 19-14 at home to Saracens; (Top 14): Drew 6-6 at home to Brive; Won 28-16 at home to Montpellier; Won 15-12 at home to Toulon; (Heineken Cup): Lost 28-17 away to Clermont Auvergne
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; (Heineken Cup): Won 38-22 at home to Racing Metro 92; Won 25-23 away to Saracens; (Magners League): Won 18-6 away to Connacht; Won 19-18 at home to Edinburgh; Won 27-6 at home to the Newport Gwent Dragons; Lost 19-15 away to the Ospreys; Drew 17-17 away to the Scarlets; (Heineken Cup): Lost 20-13 away to Clermont Auvergne; Won 24-8 at home to Clermont Auvergne; (Magners League): Won 30-13 away to Ulster; Won 30-8 at home to Connacht; Won 15-10 at home to the Ospreys; (Heineken Cup): Won 43-20 at home to Saracens
Top Scorers – 2010/11 Heineken Cup: Racing Metro 92 – Points: Jonathan Wisniewski 26; Tries: Sereli Bobo 2; Leinster – Points: Jonathan Sexton 55; Tries: Sean O’Brien 3
Previous European Meetings: 1
Saturday, October 9, 2010 – Pool 2 – Leinster 38 Racing Metro 92 22, the RDS
Heineken Cup Records:
Racing Metro 92 –
2010/11 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