It was confirmed that Sexton would miss out earlier on Friday morning with Ross Byrne taking his place at No 10. However, some returning Irish stars have been left out of the starting team and 23 too.
On the other side Iain Henderson has been passed fit for the visitors, in what is a huge boost for the northern side
Last time out at @AVIVAStadium in the Heineken #ChampionsCup ?⬇️#StormDeirdre couldn't stop over 40,000 of you coming out to #JoinTheRoar ???#TBT pic.twitter.com/Ms0glXiNi3— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) March 28, 2019
Leinster’s team is made up by Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, and Tadhg Furlong in the front-row, with James Ryan and Scott Fardy in the lock positions.
In the back-row, Rhys Ruddock captains the side in Sexton’s absence from the left-flank, with Sean O’Brien on the opposite side and Jack Conan slotting in at No 8 to complete the pack.
Luke McGrath is picked to start at scrum-half after making a return to action last weekend, and is joined in the half-backs by Byrne, who has a massive opportunity to shine now.
In the centre, Rory O’Loughlin partners Garry Ringrose, while Dave Kearney is at 11, Adam Byrne at 14 and Jordan Larmour comes in to play at 15.
The bench is full of experience with the likes of Dan Leavy, Andrew Porter, Jamison Gibson-Park and Rob Kearney ready to provide fire-power when called upon.
Gibson-Park’s inclusion on the bench also ruled out James Lowe from taking part in the game, while Kearney finds himself on the bench due to Larmour’s starting role, however Jack McGrath is a noticeable absentee from the squad.
Watch: Here is your 23-man squad to represent Leinster against @UlsterRugby tomorrow in the Heineken #ChampionsCup quarter-final at @AVIVAStadium. #LEIvULS #JoinTheRoar pic.twitter.com/e84XxapBKs— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) March 29, 2019
Speaking ahead of the game Leinster head coach Leo Cullen explained that some players will have to get used to being left out due to the younger talent that is coming through at the club.
“We’ve guys coming through the system and they can all contribute. It’s unfair to talk about guys missing out. It’s about a squad of players. This is the group we are and the way we want it to be. It’s the nature of the business, investing in the young players. Older guys know they need to facilitate that, it can be hard at times but we have to tell them this is the way it is this week. And when they deliver things in training there can be a next time,” he said.
On the Ulster side, as mentioned above Henderson is available and he is joined by returning captain Rory Best to bolster their hopes of an upset.
Best is partnered in the front-row by Eric O’Sullivan and Marty Moore, with Henderson joined by Kieran Treadwell in the second-row.
Nick Timoney is at six, while Jordi Murphy comes in at seven to make his first start against his former side. Marcell Coetzee completes the pack at No 8.
John Cooney and Billy Burns continue to be given time together in the half-backs, with Stuart McCloskey and Darren Cave outside them in the centre.
Jacob Stockdale starts on the left-wing, with Robert Baloucoune on the right and Michael Lowry at full-back.
The likes of Rob Herring, Sean Reidy and Dave Shanahan are joined in the replacements by the returning Luke Marshall.
Ulster’s danger-man Stockdale is spoken of his excitement at playing against Leinster this weekend.
“It’s a big game ahead and it’s fun playing against guys that you play with quite a lot, it’s going to be a good game,” he said.
The game will see a lot of Irish internationals that are looking for a seat on the plane to Japan go up against one another, here are some key match-ups to look out for.
Sean Cronin vs Rory Best:
Cronin was dropped from the Ireland set-up during the Six Nations, while Ireland captain Best played out his final games in the competition. Cronin has had a brilliant season with Leinster so far, especially scoring tries and will need to put up a huge fight on Saturday to stake a claim to be Best’s under-study come the World Cup.
James Ryan vs Iain Henderson:
Although one is at four and the other at five this weekend, it will be interesting to see how they cope against one another as they are such influential players in the lock position. Whoever comes out on top in the line-out department during the match will go a long way to winning the game and these men are key to the set-piece.
Sean O’Brien vs Jordi Murphy:
A departing Leinster man versus a departed Leinster man. This will be an all-out battle as neither are certain to head to Japan in one of the most hotly contested positions in the Ireland team. O’Brien is being questioned after his performances in the Six Nations, while Murphy hasn’t set the world alight since going North. If either can hit top form here it could be crucial for themselves and their team, especially as Dan Leavy will be raring to make his stamp on the game from the bench.
Luke McGrath vs John Cooney:
Again, another former blue in Cooney faces his old side. He was in and out of the Irish team while McGrath was unavailable through injury. McGrath will be wanting a perfect performance to make up for lost time because of his injury, while Cooney will want to continue his fine form that has seen him in the Irish set-up. These could be the two men battling for a place in the squad for Japan so a starring role here could seal the deal for either one.
Ross Byrne vs Billy Burns:
This is a real test for the Leinster man, who is starting due to Sexton’s injury and he won’t have an easy afternoon with Burns around. If he can control the game, it could see him step up his own plans for Japan. Burns will be doing everything he can to stop the Leinster man. Remember it was in the semi-finals 10 years ago that Sexton got his real break-through, could this be Byrne’s?
This could be the game of the weekend if it all gets going and although Leinster are strong favourites to progress this one could go down to the wire as Ulster are certainly up for the fight. Make sure you tune into this one.
Heineken Champions Cup Pool Draw for 2020/21
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
What rugby is on and where to watch it October – December
Upcoming Rugby Fixtures
Kick-off times are UK & Ireland. Fixtures are subject to change.
MONDAY 26 OCTOBER
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
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
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
Cardiff Blues v Ulster (6pm) Live on Premier Sports
SATURDAY 7 NOVEMBER
Australia v New Zealand (8.45am, Suncorp Stadium) Live on Sky Sports
Benetton v Munster (2pm) Live on Premier Sports
Dragons v Connacht (5.15pm) Live on Premier Sports
Black Ferns Possibles v Probables (30.5am, North Harbour Stadium)
SUNDAY 8 NOVEMBER
Ospreys v Leinster (3pm) Live on Premier Sports
Scarlets v Zebre (5.15pm) Live on Premier Sports & S4C
MONDAY 9 NOVEMBER
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
New Zealand v Argentina (6.10am, Bankwest Stadium) Live on Sky Sports
RWC 2021 Qualifier
Samoa v Tonga (3.05am, Trusts Arena)
France v England Women (1.15pm, venue TBC)
Black Ferns v NZ Barbarians (5.35am, Trusts Arena)
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
Munster v Ospreys (2.45pm) Live on Premier Sports & S4C
Glasgow v Dragons (6.30pm) Live on Premier Sports
MONDAY 16 NOVEMBER
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
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
Argentina v Australia (8.45am, McDonald Jones Stadium) Live on Sky Sports
England v France Women (noon, Twickenham)
Black Ferns v NZ Barbarians (5.35am, Trafalgar Park)
Bath v Newcastle (12.30pm)
Worcester v London Irish (3pm)
SUNDAY 22 NOVEMBER
Autumn Nations Cup
Scotland v France (3pm, BT Murrayfield) Live on Amazon Prime
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
Dragons v Edinburgh (6pm)
Glasgow v Munster (8.15pm) Live on Premier Sports
FRIDAY 27 NOVEMBER
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
Argentina v New Zealand (8.45am, McDonald Jones Stadium) Live on Sky Sports
Northampton v Harlequins (2pm)
Bristol v Worcester (3pm)
Exeter v Bath (3pm)
Gloucester v Wasps (3pm)
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
London Irish v Leicester (4.15pm) Live on BT Sport
Scarlets v Leinster (5.15pm) Live on Premier Sports & S4C
Cardiff Blues v Glasgow (7.35pm) Live on Premier Sports
MONDAY 30 NOVEMBER
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
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
Australia v Argentina (8.45am, Bankwest Stadium) Live on Sky Sports
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)
London Irish v Sale (2.30pm)
Gloucester v Harlequins (4.15pm) Live on BT Sport
Leinster v Saracens: Lineups announced.
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.
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)
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