Planet Rugby

Preview: Leinster v Biarritz

26th April 2013 12:01

Share:

Jonny Sexton Leinster fly half 2012

At fly-half: Jonathan Sexton

Two of rugby's long-standing giants clash at the RDS in Dubin on Saturday as Heineken Cup champions Leinster take on European mainstays Biarritz.

Despite these two heavyweights having been consistently challenging for top honours, they have not met since January 2004 and only faced off on five previous occasions. Leinster, if you believe form counts going so far back, hold the edge with three wins to Biarritz's two ahead of what is an intriguing Challenge Cup clash.

Domestically the Irish province are in a much stronger position than their opponents as they sit second, looking to seal a home semi-final with a win over the Ospreys next Friday. Biarritz's Top 14 season meanwhile is over, with them languishing in 11th, so this is their 2013/14 European ticket.

The subplot of whether this is to be Joe Schmidt's last season in charge of Leinster remains to be seen but a PRO12, Challenge Cup double would be a decent send-off for the coach, whose side was electric against Wasps on April 5. That game separated the men from the boys.

Biarritz were also exceptional, against Gloucester, in their quarter-final, winning 41-31 in a five-try showing at the tough venue that is Kingsholm. That victory was largely down to BO racing out of the blocks, with their 27-14 scoreline at the interval a warning to Leinster that they must avoid a repeat of their early effort at Adams Park when they leaked two tries to the lethal Christian Wade inside fifteen minutes. They'll know Biarritz can hold onto a lead.

Team news sees Leo Cullen lead an experienced line-up in a side which shows a number of changes from the one selected for the bonus-point victory away to Zebre last weekend.

Ian Madigan is at inside centre alongside Brian O'Driscoll, who makes his 83rd European appearance and now lies just four appearances behind second placed Shane Horgan on the all-time provincial list. Regular centre Gordon D'Arcy is ruled out due to a calf strain.

The back-row unit sees Jamie Heaslip partnering fellow Ireland internationals Shane Jennings and Kevin McLaughlin with Heaslip set to make his 163rd appearance (and his 60th in Europe) for the province. Cian Healy and Mike Ross are alongside Richardt Strauss.

Biarritz meanwhile have their two key players, Dimitri Yachvili and Imanol Harinordoqoy in their starting line-up while former Saracens tighthead Ben Broster is recalled to the XV.

Players to watch:

For Leinster: Of course this is another opportunity for British and Irish Lions contenders to state their case to head coach Warren Gatland. Brian O'Driscoll seems, if we are to believe the recent press, to have dropped down the pecking order in terms of getting the captaincy but that won't stop him giving everything for Leinster on Saturday. He is a big game player.

For Biarritz: He was impressive against Gloucester in the quarter-final and has a knack of stepping up on the European stage when BO needs him to. Dimitri Yachvili is the man we're talking about as his kicking and game management could have a big say in Dublin.

Head-to-head: Playing Ian Madigan at inside centre will be interesting and he comes up against a French international who has experience galore in the shape of Damien Traille. Madigan was a stand-out against Wasps in the quarters and remains a Lions bolter.

Prediction: This result should go the Irish side's way. Leinster by 8!

The teams:

Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Ian Madigan, 11 Isa Nacewa, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Leo Cullen, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Quinn Roux, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 John Cooney, 22 Andrew Goodman, 23 Andrew Conway.

Biarritz: 15 Marcelo Bosch, 14 Taku Ngwenya, 13 Benoît Baby, 12 Damien Traille, 11 Aled Brew, 10 Jean-Pascal Barraque, 9 Dimitri Yachvili, 8 Imanol Harinordoquy, 7 Raphael Lakafia, 6 Thibault Dubarry, 5 Pelu Taele, 4 Erik Lund, 3 Ben Broster, 2 Arnaud Heguy, 1 Thomas Synaeghel.
Replacements: 16 Benoit August, 17 Eugène Van Staden, 18 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 19 Wenceslas Lauret, 20 Mathias Marie, 21 Yann Lesgourgues, 22 Seremaïa Burotu, 23 Teddy Thomas.

Date: Saturday, April 27
Kick-off: 14:30 BST
Venue: RDS, Dublin
Referee: Wayne Barnes (Eng)
Assistant referees: Greg Garner (Eng); Paul Dix (Eng)
TMO: Geoff Warren (Eng)
Citing Commissioner: Ray Wilton (Wal)

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Super Rugby
Saturday , July 26
Waratahs vs BrumbiesWaratahs vs Brumbies Preview
Crusaders vs SharksCrusaders vs Sharks Preview
More Super Rugby fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Super Rugby
Saturday , July 19
Brumbies 32 - 30 ChiefsBrumbies vs Chiefs Report
Sharks 31 - 27 HighlandersSharks vs Highlanders Report
Saturday , July 12
Crusaders 34 - 8 HighlandersCrusaders vs Highlanders Report
Reds 3 - 34 WaratahsReds vs Waratahs Report
Lions 60 - 25 CheetahsLions vs Cheetahs Report
Stormers 10 - 34 SharksStormers vs Sharks Report
Friday , July 11
Blues 8 - 11 ChiefsBlues vs Chiefs Report
Brumbies 47 - 25 Western ForceBrumbies vs Western Force Report
Bulls 40 - 7 Melbourne RebelsBulls vs Melbourne Rebels Report
Sunday , July 6
Waratahs 44 - 16 HighlandersWaratahs vs Highlanders Report
Saturday , July 5
Crusaders 21 - 13 BluesCrusaders vs Blues Report
Western Force 30 - 20 RedsWestern Force vs Reds Report
Stormers 16 - 0 BullsStormers vs Bulls Report
Cheetahs 27 - 20 SharksCheetahs vs Sharks Report
Friday , July 4
Chiefs 24 - 16 HurricanesChiefs vs Hurricanes Report
Lions 34 - 17 Melbourne RebelsLions vs Melbourne Rebels Report
More Super Rugby results
International Match
Saturday , June 28
South Africa 55 - 6 ScotlandSouth Africa vs Scotland Report
More International Match results
Super Rugby
Hurricanes 16 - 9 CrusadersHurricanes vs Crusaders Report
Waratahs 39 - 8 BrumbiesWaratahs vs Brumbies Report
Western Force 14 - 40 BluesWestern Force vs Blues Report
Friday , June 27
Highlanders 29 - 25 ChiefsHighlanders vs Chiefs Report
Melbourne Rebels 20 - 36 RedsMelbourne Rebels vs Reds Report
More Super Rugby results
International Match
Saturday , June 21
Australia 39 - 13 FranceAustralia vs France Report
South Africa 31 - 30 WalesSouth Africa vs Wales Report
New Zealand 36 - 13 EnglandNew Zealand vs England Report
More International Match results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath00
2Exeter00
3Gloucester00
4Harlequins00
5Leicester Tigers00