Following a disappointing World Cup campaign, the Irish internationals are back in action for the start of the Champions Cup! Pool 1 initially looked very straight forward for Leinster following the draw back in June. The boys in blue will face Lyon, Treviso and Northampton Saints. However, after looking closer at the current form of two of our opponents, and based on current form, this is a pool of death. Lyon are top of their league and Saints are also joint top of theirs. Time will tell if they can bring their form to the Champions Cup!
First up for Leinster in Pool 1 is Treviso who are a very familiar opponent to the boys in blue and both will be relishing the opportunity to go again at the RDS.
The last two times we’ve played Treviso at the RDS, the Italians left much happier than us. They drew the match the last time they visited the RDS and also beat us on the same ground the previous season. Needless to say, the Italians will be feeling confident coming back to the RDS tomorrow. Equally, I’m sure the Leinster coaches will be putting a plan in place to hopefully ensure another bad result doesn’t go our way.
Leinster bring incredible form into the Champions Cup having won 6 from 6 in the Pro14 so far this season. The stats show that Leinster are not only the only undefeated team in the league, but they also have the strongest attack and defense of any other team in both conferences. Treviso on the other hand has had a mixed start, they’ve put in some great performances and still have that never give up attitude, but have managed just 2 wins in the 6 rounds played so far.
Here is the team Cullen & Co have selected for tomorrow:
15. Jordan Larmour (39)
14. Dave Kearney (139)
13. Garry Ringrose (65)
12. Joe Tomane (18)
11. James Lowe (34)
10. Johhny Sexton (160) CAPTAIN
9. Luke McGrath (114)
1. Cian Healy (209)
2. Rónan Kelleher (7)
3. Andrew Porter (54)
4. Devin Toner (236)
5. James Ryan (31)
6. Rhys Ruddock (162)
7. Josh van der Flier (73)
8. Caelan Doris (21)
16. James Tracy (98)
17. Peter Dooley (66)
18. Michael Bent (130)
19. Scott Fardy (48)
20. Max Deegan (52)
21. Jamison Gibson-Park (76)
22. Ross Byrne (76)
23. Rory O’Loughlin (66)
Since last week’s victory over Connacht, Cullen has brought in six more Irish internationals into the starting line up; Larmour, D Kearney, Ringrose, Sexton, Ryan and Van der Flier. Sexton will captain the side and Luke Mc Grath will start again at scrum half. Tomane has been rewarded by his fantastic form this season by retaining the 12 jersey, while Ringrose will partner him in the centre. The backline is extremely powerful with Larmour taking up the full back position, and Kearney and Lowe securing the wings. Great to see Dave Kearney back in, he has become such a powerful winger over the last season, he seems unstoppable when he’s carrying at speed. He’s racked up plenty of tries so far this season too, hopefully he’ll add another one or two to the tally this weekend!
The 1-8 selection is riddled with power, there’s not one lad who isn’t known for breaking the line and putting out an incredible display in the scrum and lineout.
On the bench, there’s a more internationals and great talent ready to keep momentum high when called upon.
It will be great to see the likes of Sexton and Larmour return following great outings at the World Cup. Sexton has been a guiding light for Leinster over the years so it’s great to see him tog out again as he’s generally wrapped in cotton wool outside of the Champions Cup. Larmour will be a very exciting watch as he’s really settled into the fullback roll for Ireland. It’ll be very interesting to see if he cements that spot for Leinster.
Another player that is an absolute pleasure to watch so far this season is Ronan Kelleher. He is a incredibly promising talent, a hooker capable of managing great lineouts and mauls, plus use his power to break the line and score tries. Ronan is just 6 games into his senior career with Leinster and has already amassed 5 tries to his name, three of which a result of a hat trick on his debut, and two last week against Connacht. I can very much see him in the 6 Nations squad come February next year.
Where the game will be won
Treviso have shown this season and last in particular that they do not give up. If they are given a whiff of weakness by their opposition or can see themselves getting a foothold in a match, they will take full advantage and are very hard to stop at that stage, as Leinster can attest to based on the last two meetings with them.
Leinster will need to start strong and remain strong for the entirety of this match, intensity will be key. I think it’s very doable given the talent that’s been brought back into the match day squad, but it will be very interesting to see how much rust the returning big guns have given that they haven’t played since being knocked out of the World Cup. Treviso will look to come out all guns blazing and will probably take a lot of risks in order to break Leinster’s defensive line, as they will surely be aware that playing a conservative game against such a strong team at home will not end well for them.
Leinster are a much different beast in the Champions Cup. I think the pedigree they have and the hunger they undoubtedly have following the massive disappointment of last season’s final against $aracen$ (sorry, couldn’t resist), they will want to lay down a marker and secure maximum points at home. The fact that Treviso has developed such a good track record in Dublin will surely be a driving factor as Leinster will want to right recent wrongs, and put themselves forward as a major contender for silverware next Summer!
Cheeky prediction – Kearney to score first and would be odd if Kelleher doesn’t get on the scoreboard too at this stage!!
Leinster 38 – Treviso 16
Match Day Result: Leinster 33 – Treviso 19