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Leinster Rugby vs Castres Olympique
European Champions Cup
RDS Showground, Dublin
Saturday, 15th October 2016, 15:15

Television: Live: BT Sports

So European rugby is back again and this year Leinster are a little more optimistic about their chances of progressing. Last season, they had a brute of a draw against Wasps, Toulon and Bath especially coming straight after a World Cup in which most of the squad had been involved. When they were unexpectedly stuffed in their first home match by Wasps, their campaign was effectively dead in the water. There was brief respite when a young side beat Bath at home, but that was as good as it got. It was Leinster's worst European performance ever and the squad will be determined to restore the dignity of the province this season.

They certainly have a better draw than last season, although it's by no means an easy one. They face Northampton, who are always a tough proposition and a well-funded Montpellier side that's full of South African internationals under the tutelage of Jake White. First up though is the familiar sight of Castres. Castres missed out on qualification for the Champions Cup last season, but in the previous two seasons to that, they were in Leinster's pool. They were also in Leinster's pool in the 2008-09 season when Leinster won their first Heineken Cup. That was the only time Castres beat Leinster, a horrible game on a freezing night in December. The game was a pivotal point in Leinster history as the dog's abuse they received from the media on their return home hardened the squad and drove them on to their success.

Castres have never done much to threaten the latter stages of the tournament in the last decade or so. They have picked up the odd good result at home but never seem too pushed on the road. So getting them at home first is perfect for Leinster who need as strong a start as possible with a very tough trip to Montpellier coming up the following Sunday. Castres are currently tenth in the Top 14 with 3 wins and a draw to their name from eight games. Ironically enough Castres were beaten by Montpellier last weekend, so that's something of a form guide for Leinster. Castres have named a team showing eight changes from the team that lost last week. Geoffrey Palis, Thomas Combezou, Benjamin Urdapilleta and Antoine Dupont come into the backline while Antoine Tichit, Jody Jenneker, Daniel Kotze and Mathieu Babillot come into the pack.

Leinster come into the game on the back of a good win over a limited Munster team last week. Leinster played some lovely rugby at times and the influence of Johnny Sexton was total. Robbie Henshaw also delivered far more than could have been expected in his first game in five months and the scrum had a really good day. Yet, Leinster were wasteful with many of the chances they created and are still guilty of getting too conservative the closer they get to the line. Trying to barge it over the line won't work against the two massive French packs they'll face in the next two weeks, so they'll need to come up with something more original.

Leinster have been dealt a late blow with the news that Johnny Sexton is out a with tight hamstring, so Joey Carbery comes in to start at ten in his place. Carbery has filled in well for Sexton so far this season, but this is a different level. Zane Kirchner comes in on the right wing in a back three that looks woefully short of pace, something that continues to be an issue for Leinster. There are two further changes in the pack as Jack McGrath and Josh van der Flier come in to start this week. There is better news on the injury front that Jack Conan and Sean O'Brien have been named to start on the A team in tomorrow's B&I cup game away to Richmond.

The Castres selection would suggest that they're not going all out on this one, so hopefully Leinster have enough to win and perhaps even sneak a bonus point too which could be very valuable in the months to come.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Castres Olympique
Teams Rob Kearney 15 Geoffrey Palis
Zane Kirchner 14 Remi Grosso
Garry Ringrose 13 Thomas Combezou
Robbie Henshaw 12 Robert Ebersohn
Isa Nacewa (C) 11 David Smith
Joey Carbery 10 Benjamin Urdapilleta
Luke McGrath
9 Antoine Dupont

Jack McGrath 1 Antoine Tichit
Sean Cronin 2 Jody Jenneker
Tadhg Furlong 3 Daniel Kotze
Devin Toner 4 Victor Moreaux
Ian Nagle 5 Rodrigo Capo Ortega
Rhys Ruddock 6 Mathieu Babillot
Josh van der Flier 7 Steve Mafi
Jamie Heaslip 8 Alex Tulou

Replacements James Tracy 16 Brice Mach
Cian Healy 17 Mihaita Lazar
Mike Ross 18 Damien Tussac
Ross Molony 19 Thibault Lassale
Dan Leavy 20
Anthony Jelonch
Jamison Gibson-Park 21 Rory Kockott
Cathal Marsh 22 Maxime Javaux
Noel Reid 23 Florian Vialelle

Not Considered
due to Injury
Edward Byrne,
Richardt Strauss,
Ian Fitzpatrick,
Billy Dardis,
Fergus McFadden,
Dave Kearney,
Mike McCarthy,
Tom Daly

Officials Referee: Matthew Carley (England),
Assistant Referees: Tim Wigglesworth, Steve Lee (both England)
Citing Commissioner: Dave Guyan (England),
TMO: David Sainsbury (England)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2016-10-14