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Leinster Rugby return to the Heineken Champions Cup six months after their 20-10 final defeat to Saracens in Newcastle as they fell just short in their quest for a record-breaking fifth European Cup.
They host Benetton Rugby on Saturday at 15:15 GMT, with the clash televised live from The RDS on BT Sport and beIN SPORTS.
- Leo Cullen (Leinster): “They do have consistency in terms of their coaches and in terms of recruitment, they’ve only added a couple of players to their squad. We’ve struggled against Benetton over the last couple of seasons. We’ve already played them in the Pro14 and we had a very tight win over there. [It will be] a totally different challenge in Europe, a different competition. It’s been a while since we played Benetton in Europe. Our guys are looking forward to getting going.”
- Marco Bortolami (Benetton): “We know each other very well, and actually, we performed quite well against them in the last few games. So, we are sure that playing Leinster [Rugby] away is going to be probably one of the toughest games of the season, but that’s the beauty of our job and trying to be as good as you can be against the best players in the world. So, we’re very excited.“
- Leinster have faced Benetton twice in the Heineken Champions Cup, beating them on both occasion in the 2004/05 season.
- Benetton have never won against Irish opposition in the Heineken Champions Cup.
- Leinster have lost just two pool games since the beginning of 2016/17, winning all nine of their home matches in that period.
- James Ryan made the most tackles (142) of any other player in the Heineken Champions Cup last season.
As #HeinekenChampionsCup Round 1 approaches we'll be previewing each pool 🎥
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) November 11, 2019
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Ireland centre Garry Ringrose bagged his first career hat-trick as Leinster set down a marker in Pool 1 with a 33-19 triumph over plucky Benetton.
Ringrose had been the star of the opening period after bagging a brace of tries which set his side on the path to victory.
First the 24-year-old finished off some lovely handling from right to left and his power did the rest through the covering defence.
Then on 14 minutes Ringrose popped up in midfield and left several defenders clutching thin air as he powered in by the posts.
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) November 16, 2019
Leinster’s dominance was underlined when hooker Ronan Kelleher celebrated his first European call-up with a try under the posts which Sexton converted to establish a 19-7 interval lead.
Benetton had fought back well after being stunned by Leinster’s 5th minute try and were on the board themselves as second-row Dean Budd twisted close to the line to plunge over and Ian Keatley’s conversion edged the visitors 7-5 ahead.
— Benetton Rugby 🦁 (@BenettonRugby) November 16, 2019
The visitors added second half tries by hooker Epalahame Faiva and one in the dying moments from winger Luca Sperandio in the corner and should be applauded for their fighting spirit which meant Leinster could never afford to relax.
There was no denying the home side’s superiority though as Johnny Sexton underlined with a classy try following a smart link-up with Josh van der Flier.
It was fitting though that Ringrose should score the decisive try with ten minutes remaining as he again showed his finishing power between two defenders.
Benetton will attempt to pick themselves up in Treviso against Northampton next Saturday while Leinster are in Lyon.