Leinster eye seeding boost
January 20, 2011
Sean O'Brien has been in impressive form for Leinster this season © Getty Images
Already assured of their place in the quarter-finals of this season's Heineken Cup, Leinster will go in search of a home tie in the last eight when they take on Pool 2 rivals Racing Metro at the Stade Yves du Manoir.
Leinster's crushing victory over Saracens last weekend sealed their passage into the knock-out stages and they are currently in line for home advantage according to their ranking - but will need to win against their Top 14 hosts to cement that status.
The Irish province's promising European campaign kicked off with a 38-22 victory over tournament new boys Racing back in October and a similar result should set up a return to the RDS later in the year. Defeat to Clermont last time out ended Racing's first European campaign and their focus may have already switched back to domestic matters.
Racing Metro - Player to Watch: Centre Andrea Masi was named in Italy's Six Nations squad this week and will be keen to hit his straps with the Championship kick off around the corner.
Racing Metro - Team News: Santiago Dellappe comes into the second row to partner Francois Carl Van der Merwe while Scott Zimmerman comes in at tight-head and Grégory Arganese gets the nod at hooker.
Leinster - Player to Watch: Fly-half Jonathan Sexton went public with his frustration over a new contract in the week and will want to back up his outburst with a strong showing.
Leinster - Team News: Gordon D'Arcy starts at centre alongside Brian O'Driscoll having overcome the calf strain which ruled him out of the Saracens match, while in the only other change to the back-line, Ireland international Isaac Boss partners Sexton at half-back. In the pack, Rhys Ruddock comes into the back-row alongside Sean O'Brien and Shane Jennings while Mike Ross continues in the front row alongside Richardt Strauss and Cian Healy.
Key Battle: Leinster's hopes of a win rest largely on the ability of O'Driscoll and D'Arcy to carve openings in the Racing midfield spearheaded by Masi and Virimi Vakatawa.
Trivia: Leinster's Jennings will make his 50th Heineken Cup appearance and will be the 14th Leinster player to have reached the landmark combining his games for Leinster (32 caps) and Leicester Tigers (17).
Stats: Leinster have racked up 16 tries so far in this season's Heineken Cup - only Perpignan (18) and Bath (17) have scored more but the latter two sides have had the benefit of playing Italian opposition.
"While it was flattering to have interest from overseas, I desperately want to be part of the Leinster story for the foreseeable future." - Leinster's Sean O'Brien speaks after putting pen to paper on a new deal earlier this week
Prediction: Leinster will have their eyes on a home quarter-final and while Racing will be keen to end their debut Heineken Cup season with a big performance they will not have the same hunger for the fight. Away win.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the Top 14, Super Rugby and the Aviva Premiership with fireworks and monsters both featuring
Firdose Moonda looks at the moves towards greater integration within South African rugby ... and what the future holds
It is 100 years this week since the last international match played in Europe before the outbreak of World War One. Rewind remembers the fixture's longest-living survivor
Martin Gillingham looks ahead to what he believes is the most remarkable ever climax to the league phase of the Top 14