CASTRES : 15. Geoffrey Palis; 14. Max Evans, 13. Christopher Tuatara, 12. Romain Cabannes, 11. Remi Grosso; 10. Remi Tales (c), 9. Cedric Garcia;
1. Saimone Taumoepeau, 2. Brice Mach, 3. Ramiro Herrera, 4. Richie Gray, 5. Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 6. Piula Faasalele, 7. Yannick Caballero, 8. Jannie Bornman
BENCH : 16. Mathieu Bonello, 17. Mihaita Lazar, 18. Yohan Montes, 19. Christophe Samson, 20. Mathieu Babillot, 21. Romain Martial, 22. Julien Dumora, 23. Antoine Dupont
Sunday 26th October 2014
KO 1pm (Irish time -DON’T FORGET TO CHANGE YOUR CLOCKS!)
Stade Pierre Antoine, Castres Ref : Greg Garner (ENG)
It's almost as if the test coaches wanted us to be sure we remember which version of the sport is still top of the tree in terms of importance, no matter how much new dosh the English & French clubs have supposedly generated.
But now that everyone knows about their post-Halloween plans, this weekend throws up a chance for them to show just how correct/incorrect their inclusion/exclusion was.
All told it was a good round 1 for the Irish provinces...none of us got off to a great start but that we all out-played our English opponents in the latter stages of matches bodes well for the competition overall.
The grumpiness I felt leaving the RDS last Sunday has more or less subsided, though today's announcement of the matchday 23 to play in Castres reminded me of one of it's biggest causes.
I'm still a bit miffed about Isaac Boss' refusal to quick tap a free kick we were awarded with the clock ticking into the 80th minute against a knackered Wasps defence, when a bonus point try was still on the cards. Nothing against him personally; he has certainly performed well for Leinster in the past, but I have my doubts as to whether or not he's our 2nd best scrum half, let alone are first, and he is down to start on Sunday.
Now I don't think it's a selection so disastrous that it will cost us the game, mind you...and even though this match clearly comes a "week too soon" for the return of Rob Kearney and Mike Ross, there are changes in other areas that lead me to believe we are close to getting our selections right.
In the pack, Kane Douglas starts ahead of Mike McCarthy, and a 60/20 split of their time would definitely seem to be the way to go - though of course ideally we'd like to be far enough ahead in the latter stages to be able to rest Toner instead.
Though Sean Cronin had a few dart wobbles last weekend, his improved scrummaging plus of course his trademark awesome-line radar makes him a nailed-on starter and with "more of the same" from our back row we will hopefully have enough for theirs which is considerably weakened from our last meeting.
But it's in the back line where we have the most interesting calls.
It's tough on Noel Reid to see him drop to the bench because it suggests his intercept pass was the principle reason, but given that it's Ian Madigan moving to the 12 position the reasons clearly go way beyond that. With him and Darce patrolling our midfield our lineup definitely has a more solid look to it.
Then there's our back three - I wouldn't say Madigan "doesn't belong" there, but with Kirchner back to his more ccomfortable full-back role, Darragh Fanning scoring tries for fun and then that other fella back from injury (I won't say his name in case I jinx it), it throws up endless possibilities for us to make the most of good front-foot ball.
Jimmy Gopperth got us back into this same fixture last January, and hopefully his improved form last Sunday will continue. But for him to get that back-line to sing he'll need a good display from his 9 and so I guess I'm back where I started.
When it comes to Castres, obviously the loss of talisman Rory Kockott is huge. When I saw their match against Quins he was off his game but still he seemed to be the one who would do the most damage.
Elsewhere in their side they don't seem to have adequately replaced Claasens and Dulin. And with serious breakdown threat Diarra also missing, plus the fact that they have a big clash with fellow Top14 strugglers Brive just 6 days later, it would only seem to be pride in front of their home fans that they can rely on - though as we all know that it not something you'd want to underestimate from French clubs in particular.
Basically I think we can not only win this one but also beat the 3-point spread being offered by bookies. Castres may still sneak a losing bonus, but assuming we continue to struggle to put points on the board on early trips to our opposition's 22 as we have done all season, come the final whistle we would probably be thankful of 4 more pool points.
If I have any concerns about getting the job done, they would revolve around Isaac Boss. It is of course up to him to prove me wrong, but I'd still feel happier with Reddan's experience starting and Luke McGrath's potential backing him up.
We'll see how we go. I'm going for a six-point Leinster win, with a lot of nails bitten along the way.
BRITISH & IRISH CUP : CARMARTHEN QUINS V LEINSTER A
15: Billy Dardis 14: Sam Coghlan-Murray 13: Ben Te'o 12: Steve Crosbie CAPTAIN 11: Cian Kelleher 10: Cathal Marsh 9: Nick Mc Carthy
1: Peter Dooley 2: Aaron Dundon 3: Oisín Heffernan 4: Gavin Thornbury 5: Ben Marshall 6: Peadar Timmins 7: Josh Van Der Flier 8: Jordan Coghlan
16: James Tracy 17: Jeremy Loughman 18: Ross Molony 19: Daniel Leavy 20: Adam Griggs 21: Ross Byrne 22: Adam Byrne
Obviously the name of Ben Te'o jumps off the page at you in this A selection, and it's probably better for him that he gets his first taste of a Leinster A number 13 jumper away from the limelight. I'd have only one thing to say to him..."BOD-speed".
These Quins are no slouches in the Welsh Premiership this season and have won four out of four. They have a win from their two matches in the B&I Cup, a narrow one over Plymouth similar to ours. Trips to Welsh clubs in this competition are never easy and this will be no exception.
Still, with Cathal Marsh back at 10 (I reckon he's ready for a Pro12 start and may well get one soon) and with Ross and Adam Byrne in reserve I reckon we should have enough over the 80 minutes to come out on top and get a firm grip on our pool.
Let's get behind them, shall we? #COYBIB JLP