Leinster aiming to make their mark
Published 20/01/2011 | 15:10
Leinster will endeavour to show their ruthless streak when they tackle Heineken Cup opponents Racing Metro in Paris tomorrow night.
The Irish heavyweights, European champions in 2009, have already booked a quarter-final place after dominating a qualifying pool that also includes French champions Clermont Auvergne and Saracens.
But victory at Stade Yves Du Manoir would seal a home draw for Brian O'Driscoll and company, leaving them in pole position to make another concerted tilt at Heineken silverware.
"We have to win in Paris to get a quarter-final at home, and we will certainly endeavour to do that," said Leinster head coach Joe Schmidt.
"I got asked six months ago how many points would win this group, and I said it might be 15, it might be three home wins and a few bonus points.
"So I am delighted with where we are, and now it is about keeping our feet on the ground and not wasting the opportunity we have got."
Leinster's hopes are boosted by the return of centre Gordon D'Arcy, who missed last weekend's 43-20 success against Saracens due to a calf muscle strain, with one other back division change seeing scrum-half Isaac Boss replacing Eoin Reddan.
Rhys Ruddock, son of former Wales coach Mike Ruddock, starts in the back-row alongside Shane Jennings and Sean O'Brien, completing a week when the 20-year-old also gained a place in Ireland's RBS 6 Nations squad.
Saracens, currently three points adrift at the Pool Two basement, have been hit by injuries ahead of tomorrow night's finale against Clermont at Vicarage Road.
Steve Borthwick (shoulder), Hugh Vyvyan (ankle), Michael Tagicakibau (hamstring) and Gavin Henson (calf) are all absent from the side that lost in Dublin.
With Borthwick and Vyvyan both out, Hayden Smith and Mauritz Botha forge Saracens' second-row pairing, while Nils Mordt wears the number 12 shirt, Brad Barritt switches to outside centre and full-back Chris Wyles returns after recovering from a fractured cheekbone.
Clermont could still progress as one of two best Heineken Cup group runners-up, although they would need considerable favours from results elsewhere, but a place in the second-tier Amlin Challenge Cup last-eight should be secured if they win.
Saracens rugby director Mark McCall said: "We are a side that is pretty new to the Heineken Cup, and playing in this group has been a steep learning curve.
"We aspire to be among the likes of Leinster and Munster, but this can be an unforgiving competition."
Three more Heineken Cup groups are concluded on Saturday, with a further two the following day before this season's quarter-final line-up is confirmed.
Leinster, Northampton, Toulon and Toulouse are already through, with the likelihood of them being joined by Biarritz, Ulster, Leicester and Perpignan.