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Thursday 9 February 2023 Dublin: 3°C
# European adventure
Kinsella on rugby: Leinster the favourites as Champions Cup enters new era
Province should have won another European trophy since 2018 and will be determined to put it right.

The full version of this article is available exclusively to members of the The42. To sign up, read the entire piece and enjoy the many benefits of membership including access to the unmissable Rugby Weekly podcast with Gavan Casey, Murray Kinsella, Bernard Jackman and Eoin Toolan, click here. 

FITTINGLY FOR A weekend in which the Champions Cup enters a new era, we’re off to a new rugby destination to watch Leinster play Racing 92.

With French rapper OrelSan renting out the Paris La Défense Arena this Saturday, the Top 14 club are taking the game a two-hour drive up to the north coast to play in the Stade Océane, home to Ligue 2 football team Le Havre AC. The stadium holds 25,000 people and Racing said last week that around 14,000 tickets had been sold.

The Top 14 side have mentioned how Le Havre Athletic Rugby Club and the original Racing Club are celebrating their respective 150th and 140th anniversaries this year, but really the move is simply because Racing have a policy to use their stadium for concerts first, rugby second. So off they go to the port city of Le Havre for the second time, having played a Top 14 game there in 2015. 

It’s exciting to be heading somewhere different and it will be fascinating to watch up close as the tournament favourites, Leinster, get their new campaign underway. The bitter disappointment of last season’s defeat to La Rochelle in the European final is still fresh.

Given their resources and the quality of their squad, Leinster really should have won another European trophy since 2018. This season, they’re determined to put it right.

Of course, there are many potential bumps in the road ahead, starting with Racing this weekend. Currently second in the Top 14 after picking up momentum recently, the Parisians rested many of their key men on Sunday and still beat Toulon away. They have European history of their own having lost two finals, the first of them to Leinster in 2018. That game really could have gone either way.

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Stuart Lancaster will head to Racing next summer to take over as their new head coach, but they can’t be discounted as European contenders in this campaign. With clever backs like Finn Russell, Nolann Le Garrec, and Max Spring playing behind a pack that includes Cameron Woki, Trevor Nyakane, and Wenceslas Lauret, there’s lots to like about Laurent Travers’ squad. Racing also have to face Harlequins in their pool games.

The defending champions, Ronan O’Gara’s La Rochelle, are chief among the possible winners of the trophy again. 

To read this analysis in full and enjoy the many benefits of The42 membership including access to the unmissable Rugby Weekly podcast with Gavan Casey, Murray Kinsella, Bernard Jackman and Eoin Toolan, click here.  

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