Leinster rocked by fresh injuries as Sexton returns
Ireland's provinces get their European campaigns underway this weekend in various states of repair as Leinster deal with an unprecedented injury crisis after losing Mike Ross and Rob Kearney from tomorrow's opener against Wasps.
The duo were set to be named in Matt O'Connor's side for the RDS clash, but were struck down with late strains that mean Michael Bent comes into the front-row, while Ian Madigan moves to full-back as Luke Fitzgerald is rushed back from injury to take his place on the bench.
The Guinness Pro12 champions had looked the country's best-set side after receiving a manageable draw, but they are missing a host of front-line players and will be under pressure at scrum-time in particular.
Munster kick the weekend off for the Irish teams as they look to escape a difficult pool that includes two of the other semi-finalists from last year in Saracens and Clermont, who meet at 3.15.
The Reds will be hoping to hit the ground running in their lunchtime clash away to Sale, and centre Andrew Smith says they are capable of delivering silverware in Anthony Foley's first season in charge.
"Ultimately the team goal is to win the Heineken Cup and win trophies. We want to win the Pro12 as well," he said. "We have to win every game."
While Joe Schmidt will be sweating on the fitness of his Leinster contingent, there was some good news for the Ireland coach on the injury front yesterday as Johnny Sexton was named in the Racing Metro team to face Northampton Saints this evening.
The Ireland fly-half has not played since breaking his jaw in August but his return comes just in time ahead of the November internationals.
Schmidt will be concerned, however, with Andrew Trimble missing Ulster's meeting with Leicester tonight with a toe injury.