This is Leinster's game to lose - Toulouse aren't the force they were last year

1 week ago 21

Updated 7 minutes ago

ONCE MORE WITH feeling. This volition beryllium the thirteenth gathering betwixt Leinster and Toulouse successful the European Cup, a rivalry that stretches each the mode backmost to different century.

The bookies are giving it to Leinster (kick disconnected 3pm, BT Sport) by 10 points, rather a connection erstwhile you see who the defending champions are, and what they person managed to bash connected Irish ungraded successful the past 18 months, beating Ulster twice, Munster twice.

Well, they didn’t strictly beat Munster past weekend. They conscionable won a punishment shoot-out. In presumption of the existent game, and the further play of extra-time, they could lone gully – and this was a Munster squad deprived of Dave Kilcoyne, Tadhg Beirne, John Hodnett, Gavin Coombes and Andrew Conway.

Leinster are stronger. Compare the squad they person picked for today’s crippled with the 1 that Andy Farrell selected to play New Zealand past November. Twelve of the names are the same. In different words, if you are bully capable to decision the All Blacks successful the Aviva, past you are bully capable for Toulouse.

Especially this Toulouse. The 2022 exemplary isn’t arsenic caller arsenic the 2021 version. They mislaid a batch of their squad extent past summer, the close-season signings of Anthony Jelonch andTim Nanai-Williams papering implicit the cracks. Two caller guys successful contrasted with the 9 who left: Clement Castets, Guillaume Marchand, Jerome Kaino, Louis-Benoit Madaule, Theo Idjellidaine, Simon Renda, Yoann Huget, Maxime Marty and astir painfully of all, Cheslin Kolbe.

Time aft clip Kolbe got them retired of occupation past year. Now that helium has gone, teams consciousness a batch braver successful double-marking Antoine Dupont. Both Ulster and Munster did a bully occupation connected the large 1 precocious but it’s worthy reminding you that Dupont inactive managed to wounded them, getting the winning effort successful Belfast, tho decisive kicks astatine the Aviva.

antoine-dupont-celebrates-scoring-a-try Dupont celebrates his effort against Ulster. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“Comparing (Jamison Gibson-Park to Dupont) is precise generous to Gibson-Park,” O’Driscoll said yesterday successful an interrogation with Midiolympique. “He’ll request to support his existent signifier for a mates of seasons earlier he’s mentioned successful that conversation. I mean, person you seen Dupont? Is helium really human?

“He’s retired connected his own, comfortably. Even successful the astir hard situations, he’s capable to crook things to his advantage. I perceive radical saying: ‘He’s not playing arsenic good arsenic past year.’ Are you mad? He’s man-marked much than anyone and inactive helium does unthinkable things.”

Yet determination is lone truthful overmuch 1 antheral tin do, particularly erstwhile you deliberation backmost to the 2nd Leinster effort past weekend, Gibson-Park astatine the bosom of things, zipping passes, perpetually scanning, releasing consenting runners, six of the Leinster battalion making carries, aided by 3 backs, the past of whom, Robbie Henshaw, finished a determination helium started.

That series of play, conscionable aft the archetypal quarter, felt similar a matrimony of 2 coaching philosophies, Joe Schmidt’s and Stuart Lancaster’s, the former’s obsession with speedy ruck shot matched by the latter’s passionateness for his teams to alteration their moving lines.

It’s casual to harvester these things erstwhile your prime of subordinate is truthful high. And Leinster’s is. As good arsenic the twelve who started for Ireland against New Zealand past November, determination were 3 abstracted occasions successful this year’s Six Nations erstwhile Leinster provided Andy Farrell with 11 starters.

hugo-keenan-tadhg-furlong-and-jack-conan-celebrate-after-the-game 12 Leinster players helped Ireland bushed New Zealand. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

That’s wherefore Toulouse won’t intimidate them. Yes, they’re a formidable squad – so 9 of their players featured against Ireland successful the Parisian trial – but they aren’t New Zealand, they aren’t England. In information they aren’t adjacent the Toulouse of 2021.

Plus they are distant from home. That counts. Yes, determination person been immoderate acheronian days for Irish clubs successful location European semi-finals – Leinster losing to Perpignan successful this stadium backmost successful 2003, Munster to Saracens successful 2017 – but you lone person to cheque your past books to get an thought of however location vantage counts.

And yes, this is simply a location tie. The Aviva is astir a mile from Leinster’s location ground, 2 miles from their grooming base. By yesterday day 39,000 tickets had been sold. That’s a batch of voices shouting astatine a referee and a TMO.

You consciousness Leinster request this more, not conscionable due to the fact that it is 4 years since their past win, much due to the fact that of the mode of their defeats successful Europe since, to Saracens successful 2019 and 2020, to La Rochelle past year.

Each clip the investigation focused connected 1 thing, that they’d been overpowered. That benignant of speech is guaranteed to occurrence a battalion up. They’ve a constituent to beryllium present and they’ll beryllium proving it against a squad who looked retired connected their feet a week ago, adjacent allowing for the information they were capable to dilatory the crippled down against a Munster broadside whose beforehand enactment is weaker than Leinster’s.

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You’d wage the admittance interest unsocial for the accidental to spot Cyril Baille spell up against Tadhg Furlong though the much important conflict whitethorn beryllium crossed the beforehand enactment wherever Andrew Porter faces Dorian Aldegheri. Dan Cole gave Porter a hard capable clip past Saturday. Then again, Dan Cole has been giving looseheads a hard clip since 2010.

Porter, remember, didn’t play against La Rochelle successful past year’s semi-final. Nor did Caelan Doris. Rhys Ruddock went disconnected aft a 4th of that game. There was nary Johnny Sexton that day. Gibson-Park was not around. Today they are. These things number and erstwhile the scorers bash the last number astatine astir 5 this afternoon, Leinster volition person much points to their name. That quest for a 5th prima connected their shirts is astir to determination closer.

Leinster 

15. Hugo Keenan; 14. Jimmy O’Brien; 13. Garry Ringrose, 12. Robbie Henshaw, 11. James Lowe; 10. Johnny Sexton CAPTAIN, 9. Jamison Gibson-Park; 1. Andrew Porter, 2. Rónan Kelleher, 3. Tadhg Furlong; 4. Ross Molony, 5. James Ryan; 6. Caelan Doris, 7. Josh van der Flier , 8. Jack Conan

Replacements: 16. Dan Sheehan. 17. Cian Healy, 18. Michael Ala’alatoa, 19. Joe McCarthy. 20. Rhys Ruddock, 21. Luke McGrath, 22. Ross Byrne, 23. Ciarán Frawley (52)

Toulouse 

15. Thomas Ramos; 14. Juan Cruz Mallia; 13. Pierre Fouyssac, 12. Pita Ahki; 11. Matthis Lebel; 10. Romain Ntamack, 9. Antoine Dupont; 1. Cyril Baille, 2. Julien Marchand CAPTAIN, 3. Dorian Aldegheri; 4. Rory Arnold, 5. Emmanuel Meafou; 6. Rynhardt Elstadt, 7. Anthony Jelonch, 8. François Cros

Replacements: Peato Mauvaka, Rodrigue Neti, David Ainuʻu, Joe Tekori, Selevasio Tolofua, Thibaud Flament, Martin Page-Relo, Zack Holmes

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