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Leinster v Exeter - Heineken Cup match preview
Cian Healy will play his 100th game in Leinster colours on Saturday as the champions begin the defence of their Heineken Cup crown against Exeter at the RDS.
The 25-year-old prop will start in the front-row alongside Richardt Strauss and Mike Ross while skipper Leo Cullen partners Damian Browne - who will play his 25th Leinster game - at lock.
Kevin McLaughlin continues in the back-row alongside Shane Jennings and Jamie Heaslip.
The backline is unchanged from the one which started last weekend's victory over Munster with Fergus McFadden partnering Brian O'Driscoll at centre and Isa Nacewa on the left wing making his 33rd Heineken Cup appearance.
Rob Kearney trained well on Thursday but pulled up sore afterwards, as a result Ian Madigan continues at full-back for his second Heineken Cup start. Both Kearney and Gordon D'Arcy are expected to be available for selection for the Round 2 trip to Llanelli next weekend.
Meanwhile, scrum-half Isaac Boss has recovered from the injury he sustained on the opening weekend of the league campaign and takes his place amongst the replacements alongside fellow Ireland internationals Sean Cronin and Devin Toner.
Exeter team news sees coach Rob Baxter unsurprisingly stick with virtually the same side that saw off Harlequins in the Aviva Premiership last weekend.
The two changes come in the pack where Irishman and skipper Tom Hayes returns in place of Dean Mumm, whilst James Scaysbrook is also back at openside flanker in place of the injured Ben White.
On the bench, Chris Whitehead - another who missed out last week - returns at the expense of Neil Clark; whilst Aussie international Dean Mumm remains within the squad as an option both in the second and back-row.
Leinster: 15 Ian Madigan, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Fergus McFadden, 11 Isa Nacewa, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Damian Browne, 4 Leo Cullen (capt), 3 Mike Ross, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Heinke van der Merwe, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Leo Auva'a, 21 Jordi Murphy, 22 Isaac Boss, 23 Fionn Carr.
Exeter: 15 Luke Arscott, 14 Ian Whitten, 13 Phil Dollman, 12 Jason Shoemark, 11 Matt Jess, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Haydn Thomas, 8 Richard Baxter, 7 James Scaysbrook, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 James Hanks, 4 Tom Hayes, 3 Carl Rimmer, 2 Simon Alcott, 1 Brett Sturgess.
Replacements: 16 Chris Whitehead, 17 Chris Budgen, 18 Ben Moon, 19 Ally Muldowney, 20 Dean Mumm, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Ignacio Mieres, 23 Sireli Naqelevuki.
What they said...
Leinster head coach Joe Schmidt
"Right now, our sole initial target is to get out of the group. It is such a competitive pool that I think only one team will qualify for the quarter-finals, so I am not thinking about anything beyond our first match against Exeter.
"We have not played Exeter before but we are fully expecting them to be both extremely combative and expansive. They are a really positive outfit and in Ignacio Mieres they have a fine fly-half who can vary the team's game as necessary."
Exeter head coach Rob Baxter
"We face a great and exciting challenge. Whatever happens during our pool, we will emerge a stronger and more experienced group of players. That's the club moving forward.
"First up we play the champions Leinster - what a fantastic reward for the fans and players of Exeter."
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|European Rugby Champions Cup|
|Sunday 25th January|
|European Rugby Champions Cup|
|Munster 65 - 10 Sale Sharks|
|Clermont Auvergne 18 - 6 Saracens|
|Bath 20 - 15 Glasgow|
|Montpellier 27 - 26 Toulouse|
|Saturday 24th January|
|Scarlets 3 - 26 Toulon|
|Ulster 26 - 7 Leicester|
|Northampton 8 - 32 Racing Metro 92|
|Benetton Treviso 23 - 20 Ospreys|
|Castres 19 - 47 Harlequins|
|Wasps 20 - 20 Leinster|
|Sunday 18th January|
|Ospreys 9 - 20 Northampton|
|Racing Metro 92 53 - 7 Benetton Treviso|
|Toulouse 18 - 35 Bath|
|Glasgow 21 - 10 Montpellier|
|Saturday 17th January|
|Harlequins 3 - 23 Wasps|
|Sale Sharks 13 - 22 Clermont Auvergne|
|Leinster 50 - 8 Castres|
|Toulon 60 - 22 Ulster|
|Saracens 33 - 10 Munster|
|Friday 16th January|
|Leicester 40 - 23 Scarlets|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com