Leinster and Leicester resume euro rivalry
April 8, 2011
Leinster beat Leicester to win the Heineken Cup for the first time in May 2009 © Getty Images
Leicester Tigers travel to Dublin for the Heineken Cup quarter-final on Saturday in search of revenge for their final defeat in 2009.
Leinster booked their eighth quarter-final appearance by topping Pool 2 with victories home and away against Saracens and Racing Metro and a narrow loss in Clermont. Two-time champions Leicester scraped through as runners-up in Pool 5 after a 22-22 draw with Perpignan at Welford Road gave the French side an edge in qualifying.
Both sides have played down the significance of Leinster's 19-16 win at Murrayfield two years ago and England's recent mauling at the hands of Ireland at the same stadium but with a host of players who were involved in those games set to play central roles on Saturday, recent history clearly stalks this tie and could have a telling impact on its outcome.
Leinster - Player to watch: While the likes of Brian O'Driscoll and Jonathan Sexton often dominate the limelight for Leinster, Mike Ross' performances in the scrum at Magners League and international level have been crucial in giving the backs the front-foot ball they thrive on.
Leinster - Team news: Sean O'Brien will make his 50th Leinster appearance as he continues in the back-row alongside Jamie Heaslip and Kevin McLaughlin. Former Tigers lock Leo Cullen leads the team and partners Nathan Hines in second row, with Cian Healy, Richardt Strauss and Mike Ross completing the pack. Gordon D'Arcy again links up with O'Driscoll in a backline which features six Ireland internationals including scrum-half Eoin Reddan who displaces Isaac Boss.
Leicester - Player to watch: Leicester will be relying on scrum-half Ben Youngs to overcome any doubts induced by his nightmare display for England in Dublin and deliver the kind of bright performance that has made him one of the top No.9s in Europe.
Leicester - Team news: Louis Deacon returns to the Tigers line-up and teams up with Steve Mafi in the second row. In the only other change to the side, Boris Stankovich comes into the front row to replace the suspended Marcos Ayerza. Julian White joins Martin Castrogiovanni among the replacements.
Key Battle: Manu Tuilagi will be the latest highly-touted young centre to try to upstage the always wily, and often wizardry, old dog O'Driscoll. Yet the Irishman remains the benchmark as he proved against England during the Six Nations.
Trivia: Both sides have eleven of their starting XVs from the 2009 Heineken Cup final still at the club
Stats: Fly-half Jonathan Sexton is currently the leading points scorer in this year's competition with 76 points.
"We are going to have to come up with the big performance to match the occasion. Sure, we are the home side but Leicester are a team who always travel well and we are going to have to be at the top of our game and ready for the battle." - Leinster coach Joe Schmidt.
"The two English clubs that are left in the Heineken Cup, if they were able to have wins this weekend given the restrictions on their squad size and what they can spend on the squads, clearly that would be some achievement." - Tigers boss Richard Cockerill
Prediction: Home advantage to be decisive as Leinster edge a thrilling encounter that is decided in their favour in the final few minutes
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
England broke their losing streak, but this was not them clawing their way back among the best, writes Tom Hamilton
Wales were just 13 minutes from a famous victory, but the lessons to be learned in defeat are almost exactly the same as those from previous near-misses, writes Huw Richards
Ahead of England's clash with Samoa, Scrum Sevens takes a wander down memory lane and celebrates seven examples of Pacific Islands magic
England must find a way to improve their game by tiny margins and they will get there, writes Phil Vickery