Leinster v Exeter Chiefs: Preview, team news & live score commentary KICK off 3:40pm
Leinster begin their defence of the Heineken Cup at home to the competition’s new boys, Exeter Chiefs, in the RDS this afternoon.
Leinster are looking to join Toulouse among the elite of European rugby and have a fourth star sewn on their jerseys next season. At first glance a game at home to newcomers Exeter seems a gentle enough start to their title defence but Leinster’s league form has been patchy so far this season.
Their narrow defeat of bitter rivals Munster last weekend will have helped to paper over the cracks but the wounds of their humiliation at the hands of Connacht in the Sportsground two weeks ago are still raw.
Exeter start their first Heineken Cup campaign buoyed by their five try demolition of English champions Harlequins last weekend. The Devon side have defied expectations to not only remain a Premiership outfit but to qualify for Europe.
Coach Rob Baxter has developed a hard running, wide style of rugby with the Chiefs that will pose questions of Leinster’s defence. They are also a well drilled side that will have no doubts over their fitness.
There are a few familiar faces in the line up. They are captained by former Munster forward Tom Hayes, younger brother of the recently retired Irish legend, John. Winger Ian Whitten and outhalf Gareth Steensen used to ply their trade with Ulster.
Players to watch: Exeter winger Matt Jess is the leading try scorer in this season’s Premiership. The 28 year old has scored four tries so far this season and has been instrumental in helping Exeter solidify their Premiership status.
Isa Nacewa is Leinster’s go to man and when the Fijian flyer gets the ball in space the anticipation in the crowd is palpable. He starts on the wing today but his prowess across the backline has made him one of Leinster’s most important players as they climbed to the peak of European rugby.
Team News: Joe Schmidt has made two changes from the team that held off Munster last Saturday. Recalled prop Cian Healy earns his 100th cap for the province, while Leo Cullen is restored to the captaincy and his place in the second row. Brian O’Drsicoll, Isa Nacewa and Kevin Mc Laughlin have all recovered from knocks picked up in that game and are fit to start, while Isaac Boss is on the bench for the first time since he injured his arm in the opening game of the season.
Exeter Chiefs have also made two changes to their team. Rob Baxter has recalled Tom Hayes and James Scaysbrook to the forwards in place of Dean Mumm and the injured Ben White.
Verdict: Leinster should get their quest for three in a row off to a winning start but they will face a stern challenge from the Chiefs.
Leinster: I Madigan; A Conway, B O’Driscoll, F McFadden, I Nacewa; J Sexton, E Reddan; C Healy, R Strauss, M Ross; L Cullen (capt), D Browne; K McLaughlin, S Jennings, J Heaslip.
Replacements: S Cronin, H van der Merwe, J Hagan, D Toner, L Auva’a, J Murphy, I Boss, F Carr.
Exeter: L Arscott; I Whitten, P Dollman, J Shoemark, M Jess; G Steenson, H Thomas; B Sturgess, S Alcott, C Rimmer; T Hayes, J Hanks; T Johnson, J Scaysbrook, R Baxter.
Replacements: C Whitehead, C Budgen, B Moon, A Muldowney, D Mumm, W Chudley, I Mieres, S Naqlevuki.
Referee: P Gauzere (France)