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Wednesday 22 November 2017

Schmidt stresses French cannot be taken lightly

Leinster coach knows Montpellier will give his players a tough test

LEINSTER v MONTPELLIER, RDS, TODAY (KO 1.30) Live Sky Sports 1

Leinster coach Joe Schmidt will stress how Montpellier are not the Racing Metro of last year, the Castres Olympique of 2008, the Bourgoin of 2004 and 2005 or the Biarritz Olympique of 2003.

All of those came to be conquered. Their commitment was not 100pc and they were summarily dismissed as a direct consequence of a failure in attitude.

This is different. This is a French club with a future French international coach in Fabien Galthie who asks for no quarter and refuses to give an inch.

It is just as well that Jonathan Sexton has recovered from a rolled ankle and captain Leo Cullen can take his place in the engine room. Sadly, Luke Fitzgerald is not fit to play.



Unbeaten

Jamie Hagan (pictured) makes his Heineken Cup debut at tight-head with Munster transfer target Rhys Ruddock also promoted to the first 15.

"People have really underestimated Montpellier. They are unbeaten at home in their Heineken Cup fixtures," warned Leinster coach Joe Schmidt.

They also ran Glasgow (20-15) and Bath (16-13) all the way to the 80th minute on the road in a show of character for one of the smaller spending clubs in France.

"I've spoken to a few people in France this week. The fact that they rested their full line-up last weekend means they need a hit-out before their Stade Francais (Top 14) match. They are going to come fully- armed," added Schmidt. "We are going to have to be fully-prepared for that. You saw last week that just because a team doesn't have a lot to play for doesn't mean you can take them for granted. I've seen a lot written this week about Montpellier as a 'fait accompli'. It is far from the truth. It is going to be a lot tougher than people think.

"We will be expected to win. Montpellier have real speed and talent out wide. They can vary their game. (Francois) Trinh-Duc is a super player with Julien Tomas inside him and up front they are very powerful."

Sure enough, the former French scrum-half Galthie will start eight of the men that pushed Leinster to a 12-all draw in Round One.

Numbered among them are Georgian powerhouse Mamuka Gorgodze, their go-forward machine, and a superb athlete in France flanker Fulgence Ouedraogo.

The role of the underdog used to be Leinster's bone to chew on. That tag was shed in 2009. The champions are now a target for others who wish to develop their winning ethos.

"There is a degree of comfort you can take from being the underdog," stated Schmidt. "You can rise up. Whereas when you are favourite for a game, to keep meeting the expectations of external people as well as internally is always a real challenge."

Leinster: R Kearney; F McFadden, E O'Malley, G D'Arcy, I Nacewa; J Sexton, I Boss; C Healy, R Strauss, J Hagan, L Cullen (capt), D Browne, R Ruddock, S O'Brien, J Heaslip.

Montpellier: L Amorosino; T Nagusa, Y Audrin, P Bosch, M Bustos-Moyano; F Trinh-Duc, J Tomas; N Leleimalefaga, A Creevy, G Jgenti, D Hancke, M Demarco, F Ouedraogo, M Gorgodze, A Tulou.

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