Leinster begin their defence of their Heineken Cup crown this Saturday when they travel to face competition newcomers Montpellier in the Stade de la Mosson, kick off 2.30pm.
Joe Schmidt will be able to select from a full squad, minus of course Brian O’Driscoll. Schmidt welcomed back most of his front liners in the win against Munster and will no doubt select a strong side in what will be a vital game to build momentum in the competition.
Last year’s success was built on a high intensity platform. All throughout the competition Leinster played a fast running game coupled with some furious defending. That potent combination served them well mix that in with the experience of that come from behind win against Northampton in the final, Leinster have a pool of confidence and experience to draw on.
The most interesting aspect of the game will how Leinster will cope without their inspiration number 13. Not having O’Driscoll in the team could impact hugely on Leinster. He has been their go to guy on so many occasions down the years. Even his presence in the team gives them an extra 10/15%.
Fergus McFadden, who is expected to take the 13 jersey, has a golden chance to put down his marker this weekend. Gifted with pace and a eye for the line, McFadden could be the heir apparent in the centre for Leinster, Montpellier is his first test.
While they haven’t started off the Top 14 with a bang Montpellier will be no push over for Leinster on Saturday. Fabien Galthie’s side made it through to the quarter-final stage of the Amlin Challenge Cup last season and welcome back a number of front line internationals to their lineup.
This is their first venture into the Heineken Cup and that lack of experience of playing at such a level could very well count against the French side, even more so when it is the reigning champs coming to your front door.
If Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip et al get on the front foot and silence what is sure to be a fired up and passionate home crowd, then they, along with the boot of Jonny Sexton, can get Leinster off to the prefect start as they look to put back to back Heineken Cup campaigns together. Leinster to win.