Sunday 19 January 2020

Sexton: It is always our goal to be the best in Europe

Champions Cup Leinster v Benetton (Today, KO 3.15, BT Sport 3)

SPEECH: Robin McBryde. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
SPEECH: Robin McBryde. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

If Robin McBryde didn't quite get it, he does now.

The Leinster assistant coach, fresh from the role of scrum guru to Warren Gatland's World Cup semi-finalists, has had a crash course in what the European Cup means to Leinster.

On Tuesday morning, Stuart Lancaster's special presentation was backed-up by a more personal account from none other than Sean O'Brien.

The Ireland openside made one last speech before making the cross-channel move to London Irish.

"It just gave me a taste, I felt pretty honoured to be in the meeting really to know what it's all about," said McBryde.

"There is a proud history, a proud tradition. There is an expectancy and you can't say that with a lot of clubs in the competition.

"There is pressure to live up to those expectations."

It gave Leinster a framework to hang the week's work on, a reminder that the club season really starts here.

"I don't think you need it necessarily because, when you walk in the door of a Monday morning of European week in Leinster, it does feel different," said Jonathan Sexton.

"There is a different feel around the place. It was like that on Monday, but the meeting on Tuesday was brilliant."

Hooker Ronan Kelleher, 21, and number eight Caelan Doris, 21, are well aware of what they are getting into, both making their first starts in the Champions Cup.

It is time for them to play out the dream of a fifth European Cup star as starters with the benefit of a world of experience around them.

"It has always been the goal of the club to be the best club in Europe," said Sexton.

"If we can get that fifth star, it will be put us up there because no one else will have done it.

"Yeah, it is a big motivation. We spoke about it last year and we got so close.

"That will be a big motivation this year to try and do what no team has done before."

Leinster will begin the campaign with Tadhg Furlong nursing a back injury and Andrew Porter starting at tight-head.

Rob Kearney misses out on the 23-man squad as Jordan Larmour sets out to establish a long-term tenure at full-back.

The Italians have Ian Keatley to steer a pretty resilient ship that knows what it is like to win at the RDS.

LEINSTER: J Larmour; D Kearney, G Ringrose, J Tomane, J Lowe; J Sexton (capt), L McGrath; C Healy, R Kelleher, A Porter, D Toner, J Ryan, R Ruddock, J van der Flier, C Doris.

Replacements: J Tracy, P Dooley, M Bent, S Fardy, M Deegan; J Gibson-Park, R Byrne, R O'Loughlin.

BENETTON: J Hayward; A Esposito, N Brex, A Sgarbi (capt), L Sperandio; I Keatley, D Duvenage; N Quaglio, H Faiva, M Riccioni, I Herbst, D Budd, G Pettinelli, B Steyn, N Manu.

Replacements: E Makelara, F Zani, T Pasquali, M Fuser, M Lazzaroni, T Halafihi, T Tebaldi, T Allan.

Verdict: Leinster.

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