Planet Rugby

Preview: Leinster v Stade Français

16th May 2013 13:21

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Captain: Jamie Heaslip

Stade Français travel to Dublin with the unenviable task of overturning Leinster at the RDS on Friday in the Challenge Cup final.

Follow live commentary of the Challenge Cup Final here.

Leinster hold most of the cards here. At home in Dublin in front of a sell-out crowd, the support ultimately is only going to flow one way.

Brian O'Driscoll will be absent but Leinster are more than able to fill the void left in the 13 shirt, Fergus McFadden moving infield to partner the exciting Ian Madigan.

Against Biarritz in the semi-final they rose to another level - running in five tries and reproducing the quality that has taken them to three Heineken Cup titles in four years.

Adding another trophy to the cabinet would be the perfect way to send off coach Joe Schmidt and fan favourite Isa Nacewa.

Jonathan Sexton will be another departure at the end of the season, but first these are the sort of big games where Lions coach Warren Gatland wants him to excel.

With vast experience of not just participating in but winning European finals, the home side are rightly favourites.

The French opposition meanwhile earned their spot thanks to a thrilling semi-final victory over Perpignan away from home, the boot of former USAP star Jérôme Porical landing the all-important penalty to seal the win.

Stade have been here before, losing out to Harlequins for the title in 2011.

That time it was Stade on the end of a bitter defeat, Gonzalo Camacho's late score in the 76th minute opening a wound.

Sergio Parisse led Stade that night in Cardiff and is fully aware of the threat Leinster pose, whilst also recalling on the experience of Italy's victory over Ireland in the Six Nations.

"They have got fewer weaknesses than most teams," said Parisse.

"But I lived a beautiful experience this winter with Italy against Ireland when we were not favourites and we won that Six Nations match.

"It would be wonderful to win the trophy and I just hope those who play in the final earn a lot of experience from the occasion."

Jules Plisson and Julien Dupuy will pull the strings and Parisse will inspire a pack that has talent in the likes of Aled De Malmanche and Gerhard Mostert, but Stade need Porical to nail every chance available with the boot. The match-winner in the semi-final could do the same on the biggest stage.

Players to watch:

For Leinster: Ian Madigan's late-season form has been so impressive, that many whispered that he should have travelled with the Lions. The heir to Sexton's throne at fly-half, Madigan can become a star.

For Stade Français: Hard to look past the presence of Sergio Parisse. Regarded by many as the world's best number eight, a fantastic season for Italy in the Six Nations could be capped by title success with Stade and avenge those ghosts from 2011.

Head-to-Head: A focus on the front row has Lions reject Mike Ross coming up against former Chiefs front-rower Aled de Malmanche. Whoever struggles will hand the boots of Sexton and Porical multiple chances.

Prediction: The noise of the RDS and Leinster's track record makes them clear favourites here, although Stade could provide a sting. Leinster by 7.

The teams:

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

Stade Français: 15 Jerome Porical, 14 Jérémy Sinzelle, 13 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 12 Paul Williams, 11 Hugo Bonneval, 10 Jules Plisson, 9 Julien Dupuy, 8 Sergio Parisse , 7 Pierre Rabadan, 6 David Lyons, 5 Scott Lavalla, 4 Gerhard Mostert, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Laurent Sempere, 1 Aled de Malmanche.
Replacements: 16 Remi Bonfils, 17 Stanley Wright, 18 Jérémy Becasseau, 19 Anton van Zyl, 20 Lei Tomiki, 21 Waisea Nayacalevu, 22 Julien Arias, 23 Paul Warwick.

Date: Friday, May 17
Kick-off: 20:00 BST
Venue: RDS, Dublin
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wal)
Assistant referees: Leighton Hodges (Wal), Ian Davies (Wal)
TMO: Gareth Simmonds (Wal)
Citing Commissioner: Maurizio Vancini (Ita)

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