ERCC: Leinster v Montpellier Preview


Our rugby scribe gives his verdict on the first of this weekend's European Rugby Champions Cup fixtures. 

The European Rugby Champions Cup resumes this weekend, with Pool 4 leaders Leinster looking to avenge their October defeat to Montpellier, when they host the French outfit at the RDS Arena on Friday.

Leinster v Montpellier | Friday 13 January | RDS Stadium | 21:45

To Win (80 mins)
Leinster 2/11 | Draw 22/1 | Montpellier 39/10

Leinster will feel aggrieved at their 22-16 defeat at Montpellier earlier on in the season - their only defeat in the competition this season - and will be looking to maintain their standing as Pool 4 leaders when they tackle "Les Cistes" at the weekend. If recent form is anything to go by, the men in blue will fancy their chances, having come out victors in five of their last six matches in all competitions.

The Irishmen will be further buoyed by the return of many big players, with coach Leo Cullen making six changes in all to the side that accounted for Zebre at the RDS last weekend. The Lions' duo of Jonny Sexton and Sean O'Brien return to the fray this time out, with the latter making his comeback after last playing for Leinster over nine months ago. A complete reshuffle in the front-row sees Cian Healy, James Tracey and Mike Ross bring a good mix of youth and experience to the team. Mike McCarthy is the final change, who will partner the towering Devin Toner in the second-row.

Montpellier go into this match on the back of their hard fought 31-26 defeat of Bordeaux-Begles at the weekend. Currently sitting in second position in Pool 4 (only two ahead of Castres), last season's Challenge Cup champions will be looking to make it two wins out of two against the very best that Ireland has to offer, in the cauldron that is the RDS Arena.

Jake White's side are full of physicality (with a forward pack that consists of Fijians, South Africans, Frenchmen and Georgians), which they will no doubt put to good effect on Friday, just as they have done all season long. A second-row consisting of two promising young Saffas in Paul Willemse and Jacques du Plessis will certainly look to put Toner and McCarthy to the test, while Frans Steyn (switching to fly-half for this encounter) will look to continue his incredible form with a solid display here. In other changes, former captain Fulgence Ouedraogo and Akapusi Qeri are promoted to the starting lineup to partner Pierre Spies in the back row.

Verdict: Leinster 2/11
Although White's Montpellier continue to be criticized for their "South African" style of play, there is no doubt that it's working for them - they currently sit in third position on the Top 14 table. Despite this, and an impressive recent run of form, Leinster playing at home will be too powerful for them, and their returning internationals should see them win by 15 points or more.

Written by Shaun Goosen for!

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