The defending champions open their account in front of their home army of fans at the Royal Dublin Showgrounds against the stylish London Irish.

Brian O’Driscoll is one of several British Lions stars back in action and the inspirational centre will aim to put on a show for the Dubliners on their European homecoming.

Leinster lost important figures Rocky Elsom and Felipe Contepomi to pastures new following the win over Leicester Tigers at Murrayfield in the final last May but have bolstered their ranks with Lions lock Nathan Hines, Eion Reddan, Mike Ross and Shaun Berne.

The Exiles have lost the skillful Shane Geraghty during the summer but Toby Booth and Irish captain Bob Casey will pray new fly-half Ryan Lamb can settle in quickly to pull the strings and cause an opening night shock.

The Leinster squad to face London Irish in Friday’s opening round sell out Pool 6 encounter in the RDS (KO: 8pm) has been named.

South Africa international prop CJ van der Linde is named in the Leinster squad for the first time this season after making four Heineken Cup appearances during last year’s campaign.

Try scorers from the 30-0 victory over Munster last weekend; Gordon D’Arcy, Shane Horgan and Brian O’Driscoll (who incidentally became only the third player ever – and the first Leinster player – to score 25 Heineken Cup career tries last season) are also included alongside Jonathan Sexton, who kicked 15 points last Saturday.

Leo Cullen is named alongside fellow Ireland international forwards Jamie Heaslip, Bernard Jackman, Shane Jennings, Malcolm O’Kelly and Mike Ross.

The team is expected to be named on Thursday lunchtime

Leinster squad to face London Irish.

FORWARDS: Leo Cullen, John Fogarty, Cian Healy, Jamie Heaslip, Nathan Hines, Bernard Jackman, Shane Jennings, Stephen Keogh, Ronan McCormack, Kevin McLaughlin, Malcolm O’Kelly, Sean O’Brien, Mike Ross, Devin Toner, CJ van der Linde

BACKS: Shaun Berne, Gordon D’Arcy, Girvan Dempsey, Luke Fitzgerald, Shane Horgan, Chris Keane, Rob Kearney, Simon Keogh, Fergus McFadden, Isa Nacewa, Brian O’Driscoll, Eoin Reddan, Jonathan Sexton