Preview: Leinster v Wasps

Date published: October 17 2014

These two teams together have won five of the last 11 European titles, as Leinster host Wasps in Dublin on Sunday.

These two teams together have won five of the last 11 European titles, as Leinster host Wasps in Dublin on Sunday.

All eyes are on how the Irish giants cope without the influence of not just Brian O’Driscoll, although the game will miss him, as well as second row Leo Cullen.

A surprise defeat at home to Munster in the Pro12 rang a few alarm bells, their first to their old Irish rivals in the capital since 2008, but when at full-strength Leinster can still scrap with the best.

At home in Europe especially they have been outstanding, losing just three of their last 29 home games in the tournament.

Plenty of attention will be on Ben Te’o, the rugby league convert who arrives after winning the NRL title with the South Sydney Rabbitohs but he won’t make his debut this week.

Leinster will need control from their tight five at the set-piece and Jamie Heaslip to be at his most influential when it comes to getting his team over the gain line. The continued absence Sean O’Brien deprives Leinster in that area.

Wasps’ off-field turbulence appears to be calming down as fans adjust to the idea of watching their side 80 miles away from the current base of Adams Park.

That move though won’t take place until December and on the pitch Dai Young’s men have been impressive, particularly with last week’s win at home to in-form Bath.

New captain James Haskell is in red hot form and with Christian Wade, Sailosi Tagicakibau and last year’s top try scorer in the Challenge Cup, Will Helu, Wasps don’t lack for firepower and could cause some trouble over the Irish Sea.

Leinster make five changes to the front eight that started in last weekend’s win over Zebre. Heaslip starts in the back-row and will be flanked by Rhys Ruddock and Dominic Ryan. Ryan returns after being rested against Zebre and will make his sixth start of the season.

Devin Toner comes in to start in the second row alongside Mike McCarthy in place of Kane Douglas who takes a spot among the replacements.

Sean Cronin starts in the front row in place of Richardt Strauss and Michael Bent comes in for Marty Moore. It was confirmed earlier this week that Moore with be out for 12 weeks with a shoulder injury sustained in the match against Zebre. Jack McGrath starts at loosehead.

Mike Ross was unavailable for selection after picking up a minor groin injury during the week. With front row resources stretched, management felt it prudent not to risk him for this weekend.

At full-back Ian Madigan starts in place of Rob Kearney. Kearney picked up a knock in the first half of the win over Cardiff Blues in the RDS and has had issues since, including back spasms in the warm-up before the Munster match in the Aviva Stadium.

Despite coming through the 80 minutes last weekend against Zebre, the issue flared up again during the week and he is unavailable for selection. Zane Kirchner and Darragh Fanning are retained in the back three from the Zebre game.

Leinster’s midfield partnership also remains the same, with Noel Reid and Gordon D’Arcy starting at 12 and 13 respectively. Eoin Reddan and Jimmy Gopperth make up Leinster’s half-back pairing.

On the bench there is a return for Luke Fitzgerald who could feature for Leinster for the first time since playing the full 80 minutes in last season’s win against Munster in the Aviva.

Wasps’ starting XV is unchanged from the side that beat Bath last weekend, bar England international Joe Launchbury who returns having been a late withdrawal on Sunday.

Wasps’ Director of Rugby Young said: “We have taken a lot of confidence from the performance against Bath and will go to Dublin with plenty of belief that, if we’re on top of our game, we can really compete with the best in Europe, which Leinster are.

“A number of our players haven’t experienced playing at the top level in Europe yet, so there is a huge amount of excitement in the squad at playing Leinster in their own back yard. As you can imagine, it hasn’t been a week where I’ve needed to add anything for motivation!”

Form: Wasps currently lead the head-to-head record between the two teams, with two wins from their three matches to date. Leinster’s record is strong, winning seven of their last nine matches, while the Irish side won three titles in four years between 2009-2012. Wasps’ last title came in 2007, their second.

The teams:

For Leinster: 15 Ian Madigan, 14 Zane Kirchner, 13 Gordon D’Arcy, 12 Noel Reid, 11 Darragh Fanning, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Dominic Ryan, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Mike McCarthy, 3 Michael Bent, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Jack McGrath
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 Kane Douglas, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Isaac Boss, 22 Mick McGrath, 23 Luke Fitzgerald

For Wasps: 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 James Haskell (c), 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 Bradley Davies, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Carlo Festuccia, 1 Matt Mullan
Replacements: 16 Tom Lindsay, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19 James Gaskell, 20 Sam Jones, 21 Charlie Davies, 22 Rob Miller, 23 Chris Bell

Date: Sunday, October 19
Venue: The RDS
Kickoff: 17:15 local
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Neil Hennessy (Wales), Simon Rees (Wales)
TMO: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)