Heineken Cup Pool 1: Castres v Leinster match preview
Last Updated: 12/01/14 12:01pm
Jimmy Gopperth: Starts at fly-half for Leinster
It's crunch time for Leinster who head into their clash against French champions Castres knowing that victory will virtually secure their place in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals.
The Irish province could even secure a place in the last eight with a game to spare if they win and Northampton fail to come away from Ospreys with a victory.
But the three-time champions could be in for a very difficult time on Sunday against a Castres team that is unbeaten at their Stade Pierre Antoine fortress in all competitions this season.
Castre are coming off the back of a dull, try-less 15-9 victory over Bordeaux-Begles that took them to third in the Top 14 standings while Leinster produced a clinical second-half display to get past Connacht in the Pro12.
Key pair Rory Kockott and Antonie Claassen will be missing. Both the South African scrum-half and the South African-born France international flanker missed Castres's last Top 14 match against Bordeaux-Begles due to injury.
Kockott has a calf problem while Claassen is suffering from a knee injury.
"It's still a bit too soon for them," said Castres coach David Darricarrere.
Hooker Brice Mach is amongst the replacements but South African prop Michael Coetzee, hooker Mathieu Bonello and wing Romain Martial are not expected to return until the trip to Northampton next weekend.
Leinster coach Matt O'Connor makes changes at fly-half and two changes in the back row as he retains 12 players from the team that lost to Northampton in December.
After a strong performance off the bench last weekend against Connacht in the PRO12, Jimmy Gopperth starts at 10.
In the back row, Rhys Ruddock has failed to recover from the calf injury suffered in the second half of the game in the Sportsground and as a result Kevin McLaughlin comes back in after a recent lay off with a thumb injury to take his place at 6.
The other change sees Jordi Murphy retained at 7, with Shane Jennings on the bench.
Gordon D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll are once again selected in the centre while Gopperth will be joined at scrum-half by Eoin Reddan.
Castres: 15 Dulin, 14 Grosso, 13 Bai, 12 Lamerat, 11 Evans, 10 Tales (capt), 9 Garcia; 1 Forestier, 2 Marc-Antoine Rallier, 3 Wihongi, 4 Gray, 5 Samson, 6 Babillot, 7 Diarra, 8 Faasalele.
Replacements: 16 Mach, 17 Lazar, 18 Desroche, 19 Caballero, 20 Tomas, 21 Kirkpatrick, 22 Garvey, 23 Peikrishvili.
Leinster: 15 R Kearney, 14 D Kearney, 13 O'Driscoll, 12 D'Arcy, 11 Fitzgerald, 10 Gopperth, 9 Reddan; 1 McGrath, 2 Cronin, 3 Ross, 4 Toner 5 McCarthy, 6 McLaughlin, 7 Murphy, 8 Heaslip (capt).
Replacements: 16 Dundon, 17 O'Connell, 18 Moore, 19 Cullen, 20 Jennings, 21 Boss, 22 Madigan, 23 Kirchner.
Watch Castres v Leinster on the red button on Sky Sports 2 on Sunday from 12.45pm