Friday 17 November 2017

'We won't take any risks' - Tight calf rules O'Brien out of Leinster's Montpellier clash

Sean O'Brien of Leinster prior to the Guinness PRO12 Round 13 match between Leinster and Zebre at the RDS Arena in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Sean O'Brien of Leinster prior to the Guinness PRO12 Round 13 match between Leinster and Zebre at the RDS Arena in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

A tight calf is behind Sean O'Brien's absence from Leinster's starting XV for tomorrow night's crunch clash with Montpellier but Leo Cullen hopes to have the Tullow Tank back for his side's final Champions Cup pool game against Castres.

The flanker had been pencilled in to start at openside, but pulled up in training and has been replaced by Josh van der Flier, with Dan Leavy coming on to the bench.

Cullen has stuck with form wingers Rory O'Loughlin and Adam Byrne despite Rob Kearney proving his fitness as Isa Nacewa comes back in at full-back.

"Sean just had a bit of tightness in his calf this week so we didn't take any risks with him. He should be available next week," Cullen said before being asked if the decision to keep Kearney on the bench was a fitness issue or a reward for the two youngsters' performances.

"A little bit of both, we just wanted to see how he came through the week a little bit. Just to give us that certainty earlier in the week we went with that combination. They've all been going well so I thought they deserved the start as well."

Leinster can qualify for the last eight with victory over Jake White's side and

Cullen is expecting a bruising encounter with the enormous Montpellier side who know they need to win at the RDS to keep their own quarter-final hopes alive.

"They're very, very big," he said.

"They're a team coached by Jake White so there's definitely a certain style the way they want to play the game.

"They've a very big forward pack, confrontational, very good maul, will go very hard at the ruck and will have a very strong kicking game obviously with Nic White in there who he would have coached with the Brumbies, Frans Steyn as well from his time with South Africa.

"They've got a few big backs as well, (Nemani) Nadolo on the wing in particular. But yeah they've a lot of threats across the board.

"They've assembled a very strong squad, they're pretty well-resourced and backed as a club.

"They certainly run a very different model to ourselves.

"It's a struggle to find the French players in there which is different, obviously I've a Fijian (Nacewa) sitting beside me here but we've a very different model.

"It's definitely a clash of styles, Leinster against Montpellier but we've a lot of respect for them and we found the going tough when we played in France. I thought the guys battled back well, what was it 22-6? We'd Rob Kearney in the bin as well so at that stage it wasn't looking fantastic for us but I thought we finished out the game well.

"We have been asking a lot of questions as to why we got ourselves into that situation. Montpellier to their credit they are a dangerous team and put us under pressure at a lot of stages so we need to make sure we handle some of those threats a lot better."

Knowing his side need victory, White has named a strong side with Irish scrum-half Tomas O'Leary on the bench.


Leinster Rugby: (15-9) Isa Nacewa (capt); Adam Byrne, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Rory O'Loughlin; Johnny Sexton, Luke McGrath; (1-8) Jack McGrath, James Tracy, Tadhg Furlong, Devin Toner, Hayden Triggs, Jack Conan, Josh Van Der Flier, Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements: (16-23) Richardt Strauss, Cian Healy, Michael Bent, Ross Molony, Daniel Leavy, Jamison Gibson-Park, Ross Byrne, Rob Kearney

Montpellier: (15-9)Joffrey Michel; Timoci Nagusa, Vincent Martin, Joseph Tomane, Nemani Nadolo; Frans Steyn, Nic White; (1-8) Mikheil Nariashvili, Shalva Mamukashvili, Jannie Du Plessis, Paul Willemse, Konstantine Mikautadze, Fulgence Ouedraogo, Akapusi Qera (capt), Pierre Spies 

Replacements: (16-23) Charles Geli, Yvan Watremez, Davit Kubriashvili, Antoine Battut, Kelian Galletier, Tomas O'Leary, Henry Immelman, Jesse Mogg

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