Leinster to finish pool with two lunchtime fixtures
Visit to Stade Altrad to face Montpellier could be pivotal game to decide pool honours
Leinster’s Tadhg Furlong is tackled by Exeter Chiefs’ Matt Kvesic during the Champions Cup clash at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA
Leinster have been handed a brace of lunchtime kick-offs in their final two pool matches in the Champions Cup in January following the confirmation of the fixtures and television arrangements.
Leo Cullen’s side, who have won all four of their matches to date in the tournament, will host the Glasgow Warriors at the RDS on Sunday, January 14th.
Six days later they travel to the Stade Altrad to face Montpellier for what could be the pivotal game to decide pool honours. The Irish province lead the French club by five points, so if the results involving Leinster and Montpellier are identical in Round five then, everything would be on the line they square off the following weekend in France.
In those circumstances the French club would need a four-try bonus point victory and also need to deny their Irish visitors that day a point.
Leinster scored four tries in beating Montpellier 24-17 in the opening match in the pool but the latter did go home with a bonus point. Ulster are the first of the Irish teams in action as they host French Top 14 leaders La Rochelle in a game that pits first against second in Pool 1 with each club winning three of four matches.
La Rochelle picked up five match points against Ulster in winning 41-17 earlier in the competition. Les Kiss’s charges must travel to Coventry to take on Wasps (10) in the final round of matches. The English club should thump a Harlequins team without a victory, in round five at which point they would be in contention for overall pool honours. Ulster won the corresponding fixture earlier in the tournament, 19-9.
Munster travel to France for a pool-defining game against Racing 92 in Round Five at the new U Arena in Paris on Sunday, January 21st (3.15). Johann van Straan will take the unbeaten Irish province (15) and pool leaders – three wins and a draw – to their closest pursuers, Racing 92 (11).
The French club will be without former Munster icon Ronan O’Gara, who will be released from his contract at the end of December so that he can join his new employers the Canterbury Crusaders. The teams fought out a tight 14-7 affair at Thomond Park in Round Two. Munster will then host another French club, Castres Olympique in the early kick-off on Sunday, January 21st.
Five of the six matches involving the Irish provinces will be shown on Sky Sports – the exception is Ulster’s final pool match against Wasps, which will be broadcast live on BT Sport – in marked contrast to round four when all three Irish teams featured on BT Sport primarily because they each faced English opposition in the back-to-back matches.
Connacht have a pair of Saturday afternoon European Challenge Cup fixtures as they look to close out pool honours. They currently sit seven points ahead of Worcester whom they meet next.
Saturday, January 13th: Ulster v La Rochelle, Kingspan stadium (1.0, live on Sky Sports)
Sunday, January 14th: Leinster v Glasgow Warriors, RDS (1.0, live on Sky Sports); Racing 92 v Munster (3.15, Irish time, live on Sky Sports)
Saturday, January 13th: Worcester Warriors v Connacht, Sixways (3.0)
Saturday, January 20th: Montpellier v Leinster, Stade Altrad (1.0, Irish time, live on Sky Sports)
Sunday, January 21st: Munster v Castres Olympique, Thomond Park (1.0, Irish time, live on Sky Sports); Wasps v Ulster, Ricoh Arena (3.15, live on BT Sport)
Saturday, January 20th: Connacht v Oyonnax, Sportsground (2.30)