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Leinster's supply to Ireland means challenge for start of Champions Cup campaign

Stuart Lancaster and co. will take on Montpellier and Northampton in the pool stages.

Leinster men Robbie Henshaw and Johnny Sexton are away with Ireland.
Leinster men Robbie Henshaw and Johnny Sexton are away with Ireland.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

THERE WAS PLENTY of confusion around the Heineken Champions Cup pool draw yesterday but Leinster have narrowed their focus onto the most basic facts.

They will play against Northampton Saints home and away, and against Montpellier home and away.

With just four pool games, rather than the usual six, senior coach Stuart Lancaster knows there will be very little room for error if Leinster are to be one of the top four teams in Pool A and therefore qualify for the quarter-finals, which take place on a home-and-away basis this season.

“I guess you can’t be expecting to get through unless you’re winning three from four games, so you’re going to have to try to get an away win,” said Lancaster yesterday. “Both places are very difficult to go to and win.”

Lancaster did point out that Leinster know Montpellier and Northampton “really well” due to meeting them in recent seasons.

The Champions Cup will kick off on the weekend of 11/12/13 December, with another pool game the following weekend.

Already, Lancaster and Leinster are looking ahead to that kick-off date as a potential challenge given that Ireland will play in their final Autumn Nations Cup game the weekend before the start of the European club season.

While some of the Leinster contingent might not have been extensively used by Ireland over the autumn, others will be coming off a busy schedule.

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“So you put yourself in our position from a selection point of view, normally the Six Nations would finish, you’d have a week, then re-integrate the lads for a European quarter-final,” said Lancaster.

leinsters-assistant-coach-stuart-lancaster Lancaster and Leo Cullen will face an interesting challenge. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“In this format, with Ireland finishing on the Saturday [5 December] and us playing on the following Friday or Saturday, it’s the re-integration of 15 to 20 Ireland players with the group we’ve currently got now. That selection for the first game will be critical really.

“I don’t think many other teams, if any, will supply as many international players as we do.

“How we manage that process and re-integrate those players – some might play and some might not. Also, you’ve got to remember these players have played under a different coaching team, a different calling system, so there’s no guarantees at all.

“It’s a tough start for us whether we play at home or away against Northampton or Montpellier because of that reason as much as anything else.

“Then even if you get the wins, it doesn’t guarantee you a home quarter-final, it just guarantees you a spot in the top four.

“You’ve got a home-and-away quarter-final because of the nature of the two-leg affair.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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