PA Sport

Parisse: Leinster are favourites

Parisse: Leinster are favourites
By PA Sport

17/05/2013 at 08:16Updated 17/05/2013 at 14:37

Sergio Parisse readily accepts that Stade Francais are underdogs for tonight's Amlin Challenge Cup final against Leinster in Dublin.

But the Stade skipper has also urged his team to embrace the occasion and chase a victory that would mean Heineken Cup qualification next season.

Italy captain Parisse said: "We have to play the game free in our minds - just like we did at Bath in the quarter-finals. Above all, we shall not be afraid. However, we are not favourites because we will be against a team that has huge experience in this kind of game."

He added: "The club has never won a European trophy and that is an historic objective for us. It also means that the players who will stay next season could play in the Heineken Cup.

"They (Leinster) have got fewer weaknesses than most teams, but I lived a beautiful experience this season with Italy against Ireland when we were not favourites and we won that Six Nations match. It would be wonderful to win the trophy, and I just hope those who play in the final earn a lot of experience from the occasion."

Leinster are expected to secure further European success following Heineken Cup triumphs in three of the past four seasons. The battle for 2013 Heineken silverware is an all-French affair between Clermont Auvergne and Toulon at Dublin's Aviva Stadium on Saturday, but Leinster can still claim a reasonable consolation prize.

"They (Stade) have got a very strong team," Leinster scrum-half Isaac Boss said. "They haven't done as well in the league as they should this season, but I think they have got a real focus on this Amlin tournament.

"They have won twice away from home, beating Perpignan and Bath, so they are definitely not scared of coming here. It's going to be a lot tougher than Biarritz were (in the semi-final)."

Leinster parade four of their six British and Irish Lions for this summer's Australia tour, but centre Brian O'Driscoll misses out through injury.

O'Driscoll suffered a back spasm during Leinster's RaboDirect PRO12 play-off victory over Glasgow last weekend, but his fellow Lions - full-back Rob Kearney, fly-half Jonathan Sexton, flanker Sean O'Brien and number eight Jamie Heaslip - all start against Stade, while prop Cian Healy is on the bench.

Leinster: Rob Kearney, Andrew Conway, Fergus McFadden, Ian Madigan, Isa Nacewa, Jonathan Sexton, Isaac Boss, Jack McGrath, Sean Cronin, Mike Ross, Quinn Roux, Devin Toner, Rhys Ruddock, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip (c).

Replacements: Richardt Strauss, Cian Healy, Jamie Hagan, Leo Cullen, Shane Jennings, John Cooney, Andrew Goodman,Dave Kearney

Stade Francais: Jérôme Porical; Jeremy Sinzelle, Geoffrey Doumayrou, Paul Williams, Hugo Bonneval; Jules Plisson, Julien Dupuy; Aled De Malmanche, Laurent Sempere, Rabah Slimani, Scott Lavalla, Gerhard Mostert, David Lyons, Pierre Rabadan, Sergio Parisse (c).

Replacements: Remy Bonfils, Stanley Wright, Jeremy Becasseau, Anton van Zyl, Lei Tomiki, Waisea Nayacalevu, Julien Arias, Paul Warwick.

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