Schmidt wheels out his big guns
Rugby:Leinster will throw everything they have at the Exeter Chiefs as they attempt to salvage their Heineken Cup campaign tomorrow with Richardt Strauss, Sean O’Brien, Kevin McLaughlin and Brian O’Driscoll all passed fit. Not before time, Joe Schmidt is able to name a first choice XV as his side chase a winning bonus point at Sandy Park.
Strauss comes back into the side for the first time since injuring his knee ligaments against Clermont in December, O’Brien has recovered from illness and McLaughlin is fit again after a shoulder injury. O’Driscoll, who was relieved of the Ireland captaincy yesterday, did not train fully this week after rolling an ankle last weekend but is fit enough to take his position in the Leinster midfield.
With Rob Kearney and Luke Fitzgerald both back in harness after long-term injuries of their own, Schmidt is finally dealing from a full deck for the trip to south west England. The defending champions travel in the knowledge that five points are required to have any realistic hope of qualifying for the quarter-finals of the competition.
And given the Chiefs’ impressive home record, scoring four tries will be no mean feat. With a need for a high tempo gameplan, Eoin Reddan is selected ahead of Isaac Boss at scrumhalf while Devin Toner is named alongside captain Leo Cullen in the second row.
Kick-off at Sandy Park is at 6pm with the match being broadcast live on Sky Sports 3.
Exeter Chiefs:Luke Arscott; Ian Whitten, Sireli Naqelevuki, Jason Shoemark, Matt Jess; Gareth Steenson, Kevin Barrett; Ben Moon, Neil Clark, Hoani Tui; Tom Hayes (c), Dean Mumm; Tom Johnson, James Scaysbrook, Richard Baxter. Replacements:Jack Yeandle, Carl Rimmer, Craig Mitchell, James Hanks, Ben White, Will Chudley, Ignacio Mieres, Nicholas Sestaret.
Leinster:Rob Kearney; Isa Nacewa, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald; Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross; Leo Cullen, Devin Toner; Kevin McLaughlin, Sean O'Brien, Jamie Heaslip. Replacements:Sean Cronin, Heinke van der Merwe, Michael Bent, Rhys Ruddock, Shane Jennings, Isaac Boss, Ian Madigan, Fergus McFadden.