Leinster Rugby will once again bid for a fifth EPCR crown as they begin their Heineken Champions Cup campaign at Racing 92 on Saturday.
Leinster came agonisingly close to a joint-record fifth star in 2021/22 as they fell to Stade Rochelais in the final, but this season’s opener brings fond memories as it is a repeat of the 2018 showpiece game, which saw the Irish province clinch a 15-12 win.
Leinster visit France in red-hot form, sitting top of the United Rugby Championship (URC) having won their first nine matches, picking up seven bonus points.
Three-time finalists in EPCR’s elite competition, Racing come into the tournament off the back of four consecutive victories in the TOP 14, which sees them sitting second in the table.
Saturday’s Pool A fixture at the Stade Océane in Le Havre kicks off at 13:00 (UK & Irish time) on BT Sport, beIN SPORTS, SuperSport and FloRugby.
It was a real struggle cutting down @Racing92’s highlights from last season 🔥— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) December 1, 2022
Title contenders this year with that champagne rugby? 🍾#HeinekenChampionsCup season preview ➡️ https://t.co/KvA5dUXq1o pic.twitter.com/m87XFgzRGg
Will Connors (Leinster Rugby flanker): “It was difficult for us (losing in the 2022 final). It was a really tough day. A few things just didn’t go for us. They played well. But that is top-level rugby. You know it’s two great teams going at it and that lingers a little bit. You have that feeling driving into this season and you want to right the wrongs of last season and you want to come away with silverware.”
Camille Chat (Racing 92 hooker): “The Champions Cup drives us. We’ve been chasing for years… We played three finals, we regularly play the finals. It’s always a special moment for our club. We feel that our group changes dimension when it comes to competing in this event. The concentration goes up a notch. All the players want this title.”
- More regularly praised for his visionary passing game, Racing 92 fly-half Finn Russell made the most kicks in play in the 2021/22 Heineken Champions Cup, putting boot to ball on 75 occasions. If selected, Russell will make his 50th tournament appearance on Saturday.
- Racing are currently on a four-match winning streak, albeit three of these matches have been at home.
- The Parisian side have played Leinster three times in total and have lost on all three occasions including the 2018 final in Bilbao.
- James Lowe was the top try-scorer in the 2021/22 Heineken Champions Cup, scoring 10 for the eventual runners-up.
- Similarly high-achieving, Johnny Sexton was the competition’s top points-scorer finishing Leinster’s campaign with 83 in total. He slotted an unrivalled 22 conversions.
- All four of Sexton, Jamison Gibson Park, Hugo Keenan, and Lowe finished last season at the top of the charts for try assists, producing seven, six, five, and five respectively.
- EPCR Player of the Year and World Rugby Player of the Year, Josh van der Flier, made more tackles than any other player last season, stopping 102 attackers in total for a success rate of 96%.