Leinster vs La Rochelle: Kick-off time, TV details and team news ahead of Champions Cup clash

All you need to know ahead of the fifth meeting of these European rivals in this weekend’s quarter-final

What, where and when?

Leinster. La Rochelle. Champions Cup. Two teams that cannot escape each other in Europe’s premier club competition. The two rivals square off once again this weekend. Kick-off in the marquee match-up of the quarter-final stage is at 5.30pm this Saturday at the Aviva Stadium.

This sounds familiar...

That’s because it is. Saturday will be the fifth time these two have met since 2021. The clash between Leo Cullen’s province and O’Gara’s upstart French outfit has come to define the Champions Cup in recent years.

At present, the record stands at three wins for the French side, one for the Irish. Crucially, all three of La Rochelle’s wins have come in knockout games, a semi-final in 2021 and then both the 2022 and 2023 finals. Leinster’s sole victory came during this season’s pool stages back in December.

Can I watch?

RTÉ have an agreement to show one Champions Cup game from every round on free-to-air television. Given Leinster are the only Irish side remaining in the competition, it’s an easy choice for the broadcaster this weekend. The match will be on RTÉ 2.

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TNT Sports will also have coverage of the game, for those who subscribe.

If you find yourself away from the box, as always The Irish Times live blog will have you covered.

Any tickets?

It’s a herculean task to try and sell out the Aviva given the fixture was only confirmed seven days before kick-off. However, tickets have been selling well. As of Tuesday night, fewer than 10,000 were remaining. You can get yours here.

Team news

Leinster have picked Jason Jenkins and Will Connors and reverted to a 6-2 bench for their Champions Cup quarter-final against La Rochelle, while Hugo Keenan is a late pull-out due to injury. Frawley comes into the side and Harry Byrne to the replacements.

In what looks very much like a horses-for-courses selection, Connors makes just his third Champions Cup start - his first having come in Leinster’s quarter-final defeat to Saracens in 2020, the second in the 16-9 win over La Rochelle in the pool stages at the Stade Marcel Deflandre in December.

In the continuing absence of James Ryan, Jenkins is promoted from the bench, with Ross Molony and Josh van der Flier dropping to the replacements. The backline stays the same, which means Garry Ringrose has been ruled out with the shoulder injury which has restricted him to one appearance off the bench for Ireland against Scotland during the Six Nations.

Meanwhile La Rochelle have promoted Irish secondrow Ultan Dillane to their starting XV ahead of Saturday’s clash. The former Connacht man joins Australian Will Skelton at lock, with Gregory Alldritt captaining the side in a backrow which also features Levani Botia and Judicael Cancoriet.

Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Antoine Hastoy once again form La Rochelle’s halfback pairing, with Jonathan Danty and UJ Seuteni lining out at centre. England international Jack Nowell is in the backthree alongside Teddy Thomas while Dillyn Lleyds starts at fullback in place of French international Brice Dulin.

Leinster: Ciarán Frawley; Jordan Larmour, Robbie Henshaw, Jamie Osborne, James Lowe; Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, Tadhg Furlong; Joe McCarthy, Jason Jenkins; Ryan Baird, Will Connors, Caelan Doris (capt).

Replacements: Rónan Kelleher, Michael Milne, Michael Ala’alatoa, Ross Molony, Jack Conan, Luke McGrath, Harry Byrne, Josh van der Flier.

La Rochelle: Dillyn Leyds; Jack Nowell, UJ Seuteni, Jonathan Danty, Teddy Thomas; Antoine Hastoy, Tawera Kerr-Barlow; Louis Penverne, Tolu Latu, Uini Atonio; Ultan Dillane, Will Skelton; Judicael Cancoriet, Levani Botia, Grégory Alldritt (capt)

Replacements: Quentin Lespiaucq, Alexandre Kaddouri, Joel Sclavi, Thomas Lavault, Paul Boudehent, Yoan Tanga, Teddy Iribaren, Ihaia West.

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times

Leinster RugbyLa Rochelle RugbyChampions CupWill ConnorsJosh Van Der FlierLeo Cullen

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Leinster: Hugo Keenan; Jordan Larmour, Robbie Henshaw, Jamie Osborne, James Lowe; Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, Tadhg Furlong; Joe McCarthy, Jason Jenkins; Ryan Baird, Will Connors, Caelan Doris (capt).

Replacements: Rónan Kelleher, Michael Milne, Michael Ala’alatoa, Ross Molony, Jack Conan, Luke McGrath, Ciarán Frawley, Josh van der Flier.

La Rochelle: Dillyn Leyds; Jack Nowell, UJ Seuteni, Jonathan Danty, Teddy Thomas; Antoine Hastoy, Tawera Kerr-Barlow; Louis Penverne, Tolu Latu, Uini Atonio; Ultan Dillane, Will Skelton; Judicael Cancoriet, Levani Botia, Grégory Alldritt (capt)

Replacements: Quentin Lespiaucq, Alexandre Kaddouri, Joel Sclavi, Thomas Lavault, Paul Boudehent, Yoan Tanga, Teddy Iribaren, Ihaia West.

Path to the quarter-finals

It was a comfortable enough run to this stage for Leinster. After beating La Rochelle in the rain away back in December, they overcame Sale at home despite a sluggish performance. Further victories over Leicester and Stade Francais ensured they qualified as one of the top seeds and will have home advantage until the final, which is slated for Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, should they keep winning. They then beat Leicester again at the Aviva last weekend.

La Rochelle’s path has been trickier, hence the two sides meet at this comparatively early stage of the competition instead of the final once again. They compounded that opening defeat to Leinster with a narrow defeat to the Stormers in Cape Town courtesy of a last-minute Manie Libbok conversion. They did recover to beat Leicester at home and Sale away, but those two opening defeats ensured a low seeding and a run of away fixtures in the knockouts.

In what has been a trend throughout the competition, O’Gara and co found themselves travelling to Cape Town once again to face the Stormers in the round of 16. Once again, Libbok had a conversion with the clock in the red to send them packing but this time he couldn’t find the target. La Rochelle moved on to once again face their familiar foes in Dublin.

Who’s the favourite?

Neither side looks to be at their sharpest at this stage of the year. La Rochelle already have two defeats in this competition, while they find themselves fifth in the Top 14. Leinster looked vulnerable at times against Leicester, even if they did show enough to ultimately pull through.

With all that in mind, the bookies have Leinster as marginal favourites. In what may be a touch of overconfidence, an Irish bookie has the province down to win with an eight-point spread.

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