Stade Francais v Leinster - Amlin Challenge Cup final match preview
Last Updated: May 17, 2013 1:10pm
The Rugby Club team preview this weekend's Amlin Challenge and Heineken Cup finals.
Leinster's hopes of claiming the Amlin Challenge Cup have suffered a serious blow with the news that the influential Brian O'Driscoll will play no part in Dublin.
O'Driscoll, part of a 37-man British and Irish Lions squad for the forthcoming tour to Hong Kong and Australia, suffered a back spasm during Leinster's RaboDirect PRO12 victory over Glasgow last weekend.
Leinster had remained hopeful the 34-year-old would recover in time to face their Top 14 opponents, but he has now lost his fitness race, with Fergus McFadden and Ian Madigan forging Leinster's midfield partnership.
Four other Leinster Lions - full-back Rob Kearney, fly-half Jonathan Sexton, flanker Sean O'Brien and No 8 Jamie Heaslip - all start against Stade, while prop Cian Healy is on the bench.
Lock Leo Cullen is also among the replacements, with Heaslip captaining the team.
Leinster will also be without Ireland centre Gordon D'Arcy, who will sit out the encounter at the RDS on Friday after suffering a recurrence of the calf injury that has limited his involvement in recent weeks.
Stade have won three of the previous four meetings between the two sides, and come into the final off two victories on the road in the knock-out stages.
The Top 14 club are also acutely aware that victory in the final is their only route into next season's elite European Cup.
Stade do not have the best of records in European Cup finals having lost all three. They have featured in two Heineken Cup finals along with the 2011 Amlin Challenge Cup showpiece, but have failed to win any silverware.
Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Fergus McFadden, 12 Ian Madigan, 11 Isa Nacewa, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Isaac Boss, 1 Jack McGrath, 2 Sean Cronin, 3 Mike Ross, 4 Quinn Roux, 5 Devin Toner, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 7 Sean O'Brien, 8 Jamie Heaslip (c)
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Leo Cullen, 20 Shane Jennings, 21 John Cooney, 22 Andrew Goodman, 23 Dave Kearney
Stade Francais: 15 Jerome Porical, 14 Jeremy Sinzelle, 13 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 12 Paul Williams, 11 Hugo Bonneval, 10 Jules Plisson, 9 Julien Dupuy, 1 Aled De Malmanche , 2 Laurent Sempere, 3 Rabah Slimani, 4 Scott Lavalla, 5 Gerhard Mostert, 6 David Lyons, 7 Pierre Rabadan, 8 Sergio Parisse.
Replacements: 16 Remi Bonfils, 17 Stan Wright, 18 Jeremy Becasseau, 19 Anton van Zyl, 20 Lei Tomiki, 21 Waisea Vuidarvuwalu, 22 Julien Arias, 23 Paul Warwick.
What they said...
Leinster manager Guy Easterby
"We're looking for a successful end to the season, it would be great for Jonny (Sexton), for Isa (Nacewa) and for Joe (Schmidt) to go on with at least one trophy.
"It will be fantastic if we can get a result not just for the squad, but to let them leave on a happy note."
Stade Francais' former Leinster star Felipe Contepomi
"We (Stade) will need to play the perfect game because Leinster are one of the very best teams in European competition with some magnificent players."