Preview: Clermont v Leinster

Date published: April 21 2017

Left wing Isa Nacewa will win his 50th European cap for Leinster when they face Clermont in Sunday's Champions Cup semi-final on Sunday.

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has made an injury enforced change to his starting XV with Seán O’Brien ruled out with a tightness in his hamstring.

However, Cullen revealed that he will again be assessed next week ahead of the visit of Glasgow Warriors in the PRO12 to the RDS on Friday evening. The 30-year-old back row was named in the British & Irish Lions squad on Wednesday.

Otherwise it is a very similar XV that accounted for Wasps in the quarter-final three weeks ago.

Fergus McFadden comes into the side on the right wing for his 150th Leinster appearance. The winger scored a try an the Aviva Stadium after being introduced against Wasps. Joey Carbery is again selected in the full-back jersey.

In the centre Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose renew their partnership with Luke McGrath and Johnny Sexton in the half backs. Sexton reached the 1,200 point mark for Leinster against Wasps with his 12 points from the boot.

The front row is again the all Irish international trio of Jack McGrath, Richardt Strauss and Tadhg Furlong.

In the second row, Devin Toner and Hayden Triggs continue their partnership.

Finally in the back row Rhys Ruddock comes in at blindside flanker, with Dan Leavy moving across to the openside and Jack Conan continuing at number eight.

On the bench there is a welcome return to European action for Seán Cronin, while Peter Dooley is in line to make his first European appearance of the season should he be introduced.

Meanwhile, Clermont head coach Franck Azema has rung the changes to his starting line-up after last weekend's Top 14 victory over Grenoble.

There are 10 changes in all including a positional switch in the backline where Nick Abendanon moves from full-back to the left wing where he replaces Adrien Planté.

The other changes in the backline see Scott Spedding wearing the number 15 jersey while Aurélien Rougerie and Remi Lamerat take over from Damian Penaud and Benson Stanley in midfield, Morgan Parra is preferred to Ludovic Radosavljevic at scrum-half.

In the forwards, Peceli Yato replaces Alexandre Lapandry on the openside flank while Arthur Iturria comes in for Paul Jedrasiak in the second row.

There is also a new front row with Davit Zirakashvili, Benjamin Kayser and Raphael Chaume starting while Aaron Jarvis, John Ulugia and Etienne Falgoux provide cover from the bench.

Form: This will be Leinster's ninth appearance in the semi-finals. Only Munster (12, including this season) and Toulouse (10) have reached the last four more often. This season's number one seeds from the pool stage, ASM Clermont Auvergne, are through to the semi-finals for the fifth time with their previous four games all coming since the beginning of 2011/12 (W2, L2). 

Sunday will be Leinster's 150th European Cup match as they become the third club after Toulouse and Munster to reach the milestone. The three-time champions have won 97, drawn five and lost 47 of their previous 149 games. This is the ninth meeting between the sides in Europe, and no club has faced Clermont more often than Leinster in the competition. Only Leicester Tigers (11) have played against the Irish province more often than the TOP 14 outfit. 

Clermont have won their last two matches against Leinster, this after losing five of the first six meetings. However, Leinster have won both knockout clashes between the two – the 2010 quarter-final at the RDS and the 2012 semi-final in Bordeaux. 

Leinster are unbeaten in their last five Champions Cup games (W4, D1); the last time they went on a longer such run was their record breaking 17 game unbeaten streak from 2010 to 2012 (W16, D1), during which they lifted the trophy twice. 

Leinster (37) and Clermont (34.3) have averaged more points per game in the competition this season than any other side. Leinster are the only side with a 100 percent scrum success rate on their own ball. 

Leinster captain, Isa Nacewa, has scored seven tries to date this season, at least two more than any other player, while Clermont's Camille Lopez has made the most try assists with seven. 

Sébastien Vahaamahina (80/88) has made more tackles than any other player in the competition this season, while teammate Rémi Lamerat has made the most of any back (64/75).

The teams:

Clermont: 15 Scott Spedding, 14 David Strettle, 13 Aurélien Rougerie, 12 Remi Lamerat, 11 Nick Abendanon, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Peceli Yato, 6 Damien Chouly, 5 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 4 Arthur Iturria, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Raphael Chaume 
Replacements: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Etienne Falgoux, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 Paul Jedrasiak, 20 Alexandre Lapandry, 21 Ludovic Radosavljevic , 22 Pato Fernandez, 23 Damien Penaud

Leinster: 15 Joey Carbery , 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Isa Nacewa (c), 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Jack Conan 7 Dan Leavy, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Hayden Triggs, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Jack McGrath 
Replacements: 16 Seán Cronin, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Zane Kirchner

Date: Sunday, April 23
Venue: Matmut Stadium de Gerland, Lyon
Kick-off: 15:00 local (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Ian Davies (Wales)
TMO: Jonathan Mason (Wales)

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