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Champions Cup

Brian O’Driscoll Confirms Main Man Behind Leinster’s Success

Leinster legend Brian O’Driscoll has had his say on how Leinster have become a European powerhouse and puts it down to one man in particular

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(Photo by Sportsfile/Corbis via Getty Images)

Leinster and Ireland legend Brian O’Driscoll has revealed that former Leinster head coach Michael Cheika was the game-changer for the province and made them the team they are today.

Cheika, who arrived from Randwick in 2005, lead the team to their first European Cup in 2009 and changed the team from underachievers to winners.

“We undoubtedly had the talent in the early 2000s and just didn’t understand the work-ethic side of things, the sacrifice part. And then it was the flip of that in 2006. We weren’t as talented, but we worked hard and Michael Cheika was absolutely enormous to the shaping of the province. He was the one who brought in the change in mentality and cut out the cancer,” he said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.

O’Driscoll continued to say that the ‘cancer’ at the club were the players who failed to live up to expectation and were happy to just be at the province.

“There were individuals that just were on easy-street and just happy to be professional rugby players, rather than professional players who wanted to win. The senior players rule the roost and I don’t want to talk negatively about them because there were some great players, but I don’t think we had the mentality of that team that came through from 2006 through to now,” he said.

Earlier in the interview O’Driscoll admitted that Leinster’s 30-6 home Champions Cup semi-final loss to Munster in 2006 pushed them on further.

“The semi-final in 2006 was big for us. We weren’t as nearly as talented a Leinster team as previous years, but yet we managed to get there and it gave us hope,” he said.

Although Cheika was the catalyst for their transformation, Joe Schmidt brought a new philosophy to the club when he arrived that lead to Leinster winning two more Champions Cups. However, O’Driscoll believes that current head coach and former team-mate Leo Cullen has developed the side even further and discussed Cullen’s vision from the start.

“I met Leo before the start of his second year and he had a very clear vision of how he wanted to play and we are seeing that now. I thought to myself, ‘This is a ballsy call’, considering the year he had and because Leinster had gone back a step or two in the two previous years,” he added.

O’Driscoll confirmed that the style of play Cullen wanted to implement was that of the All Blacks, whereby the number on your shirt is irrelevant and that you are willing to do everything for your team.

“It was three years ago and just the start of the ’15-man game’. The All Blacks were playing it, but no one else really was. Leo wanted to do it. It was about everyone being a ball-player and no numbers on backs after first phase. It was about everyone being comfortable in their role and a possession-based game and only kicking on their own terms,” he said.

He finished by looking ahead to this weekend’s clash of the titans between Leinster and Saracens and believes that his old side have no limitations to where the current side can go.

“I hope the final lives up to its potential because they are far and away the two best teams in Europe, consistently for the last five years. Who knows where this group of Leinster players can go? There are no limitations. You feel as though this group will be in the mix for the next couple of years. The same as Saracens,” he finished.

Leinster face Saracens on Saturday and are looking to become the first side to win the tournament five times, a fantasy thought for many when they won their first European Cup 10 years ago, but it is now very close to becoming a reality and it all started with Cheika.

Champions Cup

Heineken Champions Cup Pool Draw for 2020/21

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The holders, Exeter Chiefs, will play against Toulouse and Glasgow Warriors in the pool stage of the 2020/21 Heineken Champions Cup following the tournament Pool Draw which was held on Wednesday 28 October at the Maison du Sport International in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Exeter, who lifted the trophy for the first time after a dramatic 25th anniversary final earlier this month, were drawn into Pool B and will meet the four-time tournament winners and Glasgow over four pool stage rounds on a home and away basis.

Under the new format for the 2020/21 season featuring two pools of 12 clubs, reigning Guinness PRO14 champions, Leinster Rugby, will have Montpellier and Northampton Saints as their opponents in Pool A when the tournament kicks off again in December, while last season’s runners-up, Racing 92, are in Pool B where they will be up against Connacht Rugby and Harlequins.

Wasps, who were edged out by the Chiefs in the Gallagher Premiership final, will meet Dragons and Montpellier in Pool A, and PRO14 finalists, Ulster Rugby, will take on Gloucester Rugby and Toulouse in Pool B.

Munster Rugby will renew their European rivalry with ASM Clermont Auvergne and Harlequins in Pool B, while Bristol Bears’ Director of Rugby, Pat Lam, will make a return to Galway when the Challenge Cup winners go up against Connacht and Clermont also in Pool B.

For the purposes of the draw, the 24 clubs which qualified from the Premiership, the PRO14 and the TOP 14 were classified into four tiers based on their performances in the knockout phases of their respective leagues, and/or on their qualifying positions in their respective league tables.

Each tier contained six clubs with Tier 1 made up of the number one and number two ranked clubs from each league, and Tier 2, the number three and number four ranked clubs from each league, and so on.

Starting with Tier 1, the clubs were either drawn or allocated into either Pool A or Pool B so that each pool contained 12 clubs with no clubs in the same tier from the same league in the same pool.

The key principles regarding the pool stage fixtures are that clubs will only play against opponents in the same pool, and clubs from the same league cannot play against one another.

The Tier 1 and Tier 4 clubs which were drawn in the same pool, but which are not from the same league, will play one another home and away over four rounds. The same principle applies to the Tier 2 and Tier 3 clubs which were drawn in the same pool, but which are not from the same league.

The exact dates of the Heineken Champions Cup pool stage fixtures and the Challenge Cup preliminary stage fixtures, including venues, kick-off times and TV coverage, will be announced as soon as possible following consultation with clubs and EPCR’s partner broadcasters.

The four highest-ranked clubs from each Heineken Champions Cup pool will qualify for the quarter-finals which will be played over two legs, and the clubs ranked from number five to number eight in each pool will qualify for the Round of 16 of the Challenge Cup.

Today’s draw, which mapped out the first steps on the journey to the 2021 Marseille finals weekend, was conducted by EPCR Chief Executive, Vincent Gaillard, and by EPCR Commercial and Brand Manager, Anya Alderslade.

The event scrutineer was Lausanne-based solicitor, Jean-Guillaume Amiguet.

2020/21 HEINEKEN CHAMPIONS CUP

POOL A (with opponents in brackets)
Bordeaux-Bègles (Dragons, Northampton Saints)
Leinster Rugby (Montpellier, Northampton Saints)
Wasps (Dragons, Montpellier)
Bath Rugby (La Rochelle, Scarlets)
Edinburgh Rugby (La Rochelle, Sale Sharks)
RC Toulon (Sale Sharks, Scarlets)
La Rochelle (Bath Rugby, Edinburgh Rugby)
Sale Sharks (Edinburgh Rugby, RC Toulon)
Scarlets (Bath Rugby, RC Toulon)
Dragons (Bordeaux-Bègles, Wasps)
Montpellier (Leinster Rugby, Wasps)
Northampton Saints (Bordeaux-Bègles, Leinster Rugby)

POOL B (with opponents in brackets)
Exeter Chiefs (Glasgow Warriors, Toulouse)
Lyon (Glasgow Warriors, Gloucester Rugby)
Ulster Rugby (Gloucester Rugby, Toulouse)
Bristol Bears (ASM Clermont Auvergne, Connacht Rugby)
Munster Rugby (ASM Clermont Auvergne, Harlequins)
Racing 92 (Connacht Rugby, Harlequins)
ASM Clermont Auvergne (Bristol Bears, Munster Rugby)
Connacht Rugby (Bristol Bears, Racing 92)
Harlequins (Munster Rugby, Racing 92)
Glasgow Warriors (Exeter Chiefs, Lyon)
Gloucester Rugby (Lyon, Ulster)
Toulouse (Exeter Chiefs, Ulster Rugby)

2020/21 season weekends
Round 1 – 11/12/13 December 2020
Round 2 – 18/19/20 December 2020
Round 3 – 15/16/17 January 2021
Round 4 – 22/23/24 January 2021

Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals, 1st leg – 2/3/4 April 2021
Challenge Cup Round of 16 – 2/3/4 April 2021
Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals, 2nd leg – 9/10/11 April 2021
Challenge Cup quarter-finals – 9/10/11 April 2021
Semi-finals – 30 April – 1/2 May 2021
2021 finals – Stade Vélodrome, Marseille
Challenge Cup final – Friday 21 May
Heineken Champions Cup final – Saturday 22 May

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6 Nations

What rugby is on and where to watch it October – December

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Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Upcoming Rugby Fixtures

Kick-off times are UK & Ireland. Fixtures are subject to change.

MONDAY 26 OCTOBER

Guinness Pro14

Munster v Cardiff Blues (8.15pm) Live on Premier Sports
SATURDAY 31 OCTOBER
2020 Six Nations

Wales v Scotland (2.15pm, Parc y Scarlets) Live on BBC & S4C
Italy v England (4.45pm, Stadio Olimpico) Live on ITV
France v Ireland (8pm, Stade de France) Live on BBC
Tri-Nations
Australia v New Zealand (8.45am, ANZ Stadium) Live on Sky Sports


SUNDAY 1 NOVEMBER

2020 Women’s Six Nations

Ireland v France (tbc, Dublin) Live on RTE
Wales v Scotland (4.15pm, Cardiff City Stadium) Live on BBC Alba
Italy v England (5pm, Stadio Sergio Lanranchi) Live on Sky Sports

Guinness Pro14

Dragons v Munster (2pm) Live on Premier Sports & S4C

Connacht v Benetton (4.30pm) Live on Premier Sports

Scarlets v Edinburgh (6.45pm) Live on Premier Sports

MONDAY 2 NOVEMBER
Guinness Pro14
Cardiff Blues v Ulster (6pm) Live on Premier Sports

Zebre v Ospreys (7.15pm) Live on Premier Sports

Glasgow v Leinster (8.15pm) Live on Premier Sports

SATURDAY 7 NOVEMBER
Tri-Nations
Australia v New Zealand (8.45am, Suncorp Stadium) Live on Sky Sports
Guinness Pro14
Benetton v Munster (2pm) Live on Premier Sports

Dragons v Connacht (5.15pm) Live on Premier Sports

Selection Match

Black Ferns Possibles v Probables (30.5am, North Harbour Stadium)


SUNDAY 8 NOVEMBER
Guinness Pro14
Ospreys v Leinster (3pm) Live on Premier Sports

Scarlets v Zebre (5.15pm) Live on Premier Sports & S4C

MONDAY 9 NOVEMBER
Guinness Pro14
Ulster v Glasgow (8.15pm) Live on Premier Sports

Edinburgh v Cardiff Blues (8.15pm) Live on Premier Sports


FRIDAY 13 NOVEMBER
Autumn Nations Cup
Ireland v Wales (7pm, Aviva Stadium) Live on Channel 4, RTE & S4C

SATURDAY 14 NOVEMBER
Autumn Nations Cup
Italy v Scotland (12.45pm, venue tbc) Live on Amazon Prime
England v Georgia (3pm, Twickenham) Live on Amazon Prime
Tri-Nations
New Zealand v Argentina (6.10am, Bankwest Stadium) Live on Sky Sports
RWC 2021 Qualifier

Samoa v Tonga (3.05am, Trusts Arena)
International Fixtures
France v England Women (1.15pm, venue TBC)
Black Ferns v NZ Barbarians (5.35am, Trusts Arena)
Guinness Pro14
Connacht v Scarlets (7.35pm) Live on Premier Sports

SUNDAY 15 NOVEMBER
Autumn Nations Cup
France v Fiji (3.15pm, Ravine Stadium) Live on Amazon Prime
Guinness Pro14
Munster v Ospreys (2.45pm) Live on Premier Sports & S4C

Glasgow v Dragons (6.30pm) Live on Premier Sports

MONDAY 16 NOVEMBER
Guinness Pro14
Zebre v Ulster (6pm) Live on Premier Sports

Leinster v Edinburgh (8.15pm) Live on Premier Sports

Cardiff Blues v Benetton (8.15pm) Live on Premier Sports

FRIDAY 20 NOVEMBER
Gallagher Premiership

Harlequins v Exeter (7.45pm) Live on BT Sport

Sale v Northampton (8pm)

SATURDAY 21 NOVEMBER

Autumn Nations Cup
Italy v Fiji (12.45pm, venue tbc) Live on Amazon Prime
England v Ireland (3pm, Twickenham) Live on Amazon Prime, Channel 4 & RTE

Wales v Georgia (5.15pm, Parc y Scarlets) Live on Amazon Prime & S4C
Tri-Nations
Argentina v Australia (8.45am, McDonald Jones Stadium) Live on Sky Sports
International Fixture
England v France Women (noon, Twickenham)
Black Ferns v NZ Barbarians (5.35am, Trafalgar Park)
Gallagher Premiership
Bath v Newcastle (12.30pm)

Leicester v Gloucester (3pm)

Worcester v London Irish (3pm)

SUNDAY 22 NOVEMBER
Autumn Nations Cup
Scotland v France (3pm, BT Murrayfield) Live on Amazon Prime

Gallagher Premiership
Wasps v Bristol (1pm) Live on BT Sport
Guinness Pro14
Zebre v Connacht (2.30pm) Live on Premier Sports

Ospreys v Benetton (3pm) Live on S4C

Leinster v Cardiff Blues (5.15pm) Live on Premier Sports

Ulster v Scarlets (7.35pm) Live on Premier Sports

MONDAY 23 NOVEMBER

Guinness Pro14
Dragons v Edinburgh (6pm)

Glasgow v Munster (8.15pm) Live on Premier Sports

FRIDAY 27 NOVEMBER

Gallagher Premiership

Newcastle v Sale (7.45pm) Live on BT Sport

SATURDAY 28 NOVEMBER

Autumn Nations Cup
Scotland v Fiji (1.45pm, BT Murrayfield) Live on Amazon Prime
Wales v England (4pm, venue tbc) Live on Amazon Prime & S4C
France v Italy (8pm, venue tbc) Live on Amazon Prime
Tri-Nations
Argentina v New Zealand (8.45am, McDonald Jones Stadium) Live on Sky Sports
Gallagher Premiership
Northampton v Harlequins (2pm)

Bristol v Worcester (3pm)

Exeter v Bath (3pm)

Gloucester v Wasps (3pm)

Guinness Pro14
Connacht v Ospreys (7.35pm) Live on Premier Sports

SUNDAY 29 NOVEMBER
Autumn Nations Cup
Ireland v Georgia (2pm, Aviva Stadium) Live on Channel 4 & RTE

Gallagher Premiership
London Irish v Leicester (4.15pm) Live on BT Sport
Guinness Pro14
Scarlets v Leinster (5.15pm) Live on Premier Sports & S4C

Cardiff Blues v Glasgow (7.35pm) Live on Premier Sports

MONDAY 30 NOVEMBER
Guinness Pro14
Benetton v Dragons (6pm) Live on Premier Sports

Munster v Zebre (8.15pm) Live on Premier Sports

Edinburgh v Ulster (8.15pm) Live on Premier Sports


FRIDAY 4 DECEMBER
Gallagher Premiership
Bristol v Northampton (7.45pm) Live on BT Sport

SATURDAY 5 DECEMBER
Autumn Nations Cup – Play-off Finals

Georgia v TBC (midday, BT Murrayfield) Live on Amazon Prime
Ireland v TBC (2.15pm, Aviva Stadium) Live on Amazon Prime & RTE

Wales v TBC (4.45pm, venue tbc) Live on Amazon Prime & S4C
Tri-Nations
Australia v Argentina (8.45am, Bankwest Stadium) Live on Sky Sports
Gallagher Premiership
Leicester v Exeter (3pm)

Wasps v Newcastle (3pm)

Worcester v Bath (3pm)


SUNDAY 6 DECEMBER
Autumn Nations Cup – Play-off Finals
England v TBC (2pm, Twickenham) Live on Amazon Prime
2020 Women’s Six Nations/RWC 2021 Qualifier

Italy v Scotland (6pm, Stadio Sergio Lanranchi)
Gallagher Premiership
London Irish v Sale (2.30pm)
Gloucester v Harlequins (4.15pm) Live on BT Sport

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Champions Cup

Leinster v Saracens: Lineups announced.

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(Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

Jackson Wray makes his 250th appearance for Saracens this weekend v Leinster. He is joined the back row by Mike Rhodes, who is closing in on 100 outings for the Men in Black, and Billy Vunipola – a try scorer in last season’s European final.

His brother Mako returns to the front row alongside England teammate Jamie George and South Africa international Vincent Koch, while Maro Itoje is partnered by Tim Swinson in the second row.

Scotland international Swinson will run out for his 50th European match in Dublin.

In the back division, Owen Farrell’s suspension sees Alex Goode switch to fly-half to play outside scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth.

Elliot Daly fills in at full-back with Sean Maitland and Alex Lewington taking spot on the wings. Captain Brad Barritt and Duncan Taylor make up the midfield.

Replacements Alec Clarey and Dom Morris will earn their Champions Cup stripes should they enter the fray.

Saracens team to face Leinster:

15 Elliot Daly (10)
14 Alex Lewington (51)
13 Duncan Taylor (130)
12 Brad Barritt (260)
11 Sean Maitland (77)
10 Alex Goode (300)
9 Richard Wigglesworth (247)
1 Mako Vunipola (169)
2 Jamie George (230)
3 Vincent Koch (85)
4 Maro Itoje (123)
5 Tim Swinson (3)
6 Mike Rhodes (97)
7 Jackson Wray (249)
8 Billy Vunipola (114)

Replacements

16 Tom Woolstencroft (40)
17 Richard Barrington (192)
18 Alec Clarey (5)
19 Callum Hunter-Hill (21)
20 Calum Clark (54)
21 Aled Davies (4)
22 Manu Vunipola (26)
23 Dom Morris (24)

The Leinster Rugby team, as sponsored by Bank of Ireland, to face Saracens in the Quarter-Final of the Heineken Champions Cup tomorrow at Aviva Stadium has been named by Head Coach Leo Cullen (KO 3.00pm, live on BT Sport and RTÉ Radio).

In team news, Johnny Sexton will captain the side with two players, Hugo Keenan and Will Connors, making European debuts from the start and a third, Ryan Baird, from the bench.

Jordan Larmour is selected at full-back and the former St. Andrew’s College man will win his 50th cap for Leinster in the number 15 jersey.

Keenan will make his European debut on the right wing with James Lowe selected on the left.

In the centre once again Cullen has selected Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose as his partnership.

In the half-backs, Luke McGrath starts at scrumhalf alongside captain Sexton.

Cian Healy will become the fourth most-capped Leinster player of all time when he pulls on the number one jersey tomorrow. The Clontarf native is closing in on Jamie Heaslip who is in third place on 229 caps.

Seán Cronin is selected alongside Healy in the front row as is Andrew Porter.

Devin Toner and James Ryan will again form the second-row partnership for Leinster Rugby this week.

Finally, in the back row, Caelan Doris will start at blindside flanker, with Will Connors selected at openside and Jack Conan at number eight.

On the bench, Ryan Baird is another player in line to make his European debut should he be introduced.

Leinster Rugby (caps in brackets)

15. Jordan Larmour (49)
14. Hugo Keenan (17)
13. Garry Ringrose (75)
12. Robbie Henshaw (47)
11. James Lowe (46)
10. Johnny Sexton (166) CAPTAIN
9. Luke McGrath (126)
1. Cian Healy (219)
2. Seán Cronin (184)
3. Andrew Porter (65)
4. Devin Toner (248)
5. James Ryan (38)
6. Caelan Doris (32)
7. Will Connors (19)
8. Jack Conan (92)

16. Rónan Kelleher (14)
17. Ed Byrne (56)
18. Michael Bent (139)
19. Ryan Baird (9)
20. Josh van der Flier (83)
21. Jamison Gibson-Park (92)
22. Ross Byrne (88)
23. Rory O’Loughlin (70)

Referee: Pascal Gaüzère (FFR)

Press Releases from Saracens and Leinster Rugby

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