Friday, April 17, 2015

Preview : Toulon v Leinster



LEINSTER : 15. Rob Kearney 14. Fergus McFadden 13. Ben Te'o 12. Ian Madigan 11. Luke Fitzgerald 10. Jimmy Gopperth 9. Isaac Boss
1. Cian Healy 2. Sean Cronin 3. Mike Ross 4. Devin Toner 5. Mike McCarthy 6. Jordi Murphy 7. Sean O'Brien 8. Jamie Heaslip CAPTAIN
16. Richardt Strauss 17. Jack McGrath 18. Marty Moore 19. Ben Marshall 20. Dominic Ryan 21. Eoin Reddan 22. Gordon D'Arcy 23. Zane Kirchner



Take your pick...Toulouse v Leinster 2006?  Munster v Leinster at Croker in 2009?  Saints v Leinster (2nd half) 2011?  Few gave us a chance of pulling together and getting a result each time and guess what...

Three principles combined on those occasions... Prepare, Believe, Deliver.

If you only take Leinster's Pro12 campaign up to and including last Sunday, then the "prepare" bit hasn't been ideal.  But hang on...what match is this again?  Oh, yeah - a Heineken European semifinal.  Whatever you may feel about how the results were achieved against Quins, Wasps, Castres & Bath up to this point, the fact remains we got them, we're in the final four, and this brings us to the next point.

The "believe" part comes from realising you have as much right to be on that pitch as your opposition.  Concede your mindset to the form book and you may as well not show up.  This is cup rugby and one good thing about having three stars on the jersey is that as the boys put them on in the Stade Vélodrome they'll be reminded of what is possible with the right amount of belief.

Finally, when Wayne Barnes blows the whistle to start the match, it's 15 against 15 and it's time to get stuck in and play what's in front of you.  Time to put all the gym sessions, the DVD sessions, the technical sessions and the not-going-on-drinking sessions to work.  In other words, time to "deliver".

Click all of those three, and amazing things can happen, and we have seen it before.  So it's up to us as Leinster fans to get ourselves in a positive frame of mind, and that includes moving all our own opinions on who to pick and how to play the game into storage for the duration of the weekend.

How specifically can Leinster deliver?  Well the key word is "accuracy" and we need it from the off.

First and foremost we have the very same area I harped on before we played Bath...our own set pieces.  We did well at the scrum that day but when we had lineouts in decent attacking positions, we literally threw the ball away.  That definitely cannot happen in Marseille.  And going back to the scrums, we need to use them to win & retain possession, not win penalties.

Speaking of penalties...I cracked wise when Wayne Barnes was announced as the ref, but I don't agree with the notion that he is somehow a bad omen specifically for Irish teams as some suggest.  We have won a European semifinal in France with him in the middle before, we can definitely do it again and our forwards have had plenty of practise in recent weeks.

On the attacking front, we have to put it up to them.  I don't mind territory kicks but they have to be smart and accurate, especially against this back three.  But what I'm expecting most of all is miss-passes from 10 & 12 with a strike runner ready to receive a ball back inside and you don't need me to tell you these HAVE to be spot on. 

Finally there's D.  Gerry Thornley, who surely broke the world record for Most Punditry Appearances On Different Shows during the week just gone, repeated ad naseum how many tackles Leinster have missed in recent outings.  Naturally that cannot happen against this particular opposition .... they will take full advantage of any clean break.  Defence was the one area we felt was a staple source of confidence for us at the start of the season and we need it back now.

You may notice I haven't mentioned a single player's name in this preview.  That is by design.  You can see the names yourself in the starting lineup and you all know what they can do.  If another amazing Leinster victory is to happen it will need them to perform together so I'm not going to focus on any individuals.

As for Toulon, well they have some impressive names of their own, and they have shown that despite the fact that it took deep pockets to bring them together, they know how to come together and play for the jersey.

But they are by no means unbeatable.

My head is telling me that Leinster will stay with them and beat the bookies' spread but fall short by about 6 points or so.  But right after I post this preview my head is going out the window (figuratively I hope...) and my heart will rule for the length of the weekend...sadly I am unable to travel but you can be sure I'll be watching this match as a fan not an analyst.

And being cup rugby it matters not whether we win by a cricket score or by one point.  This 2014/15 Leinster squad is due a big performance and result.  Let's do all we can to make sure we have it this Sunday in Marseille.  Because we definitely can.  And what's more, my heart says we will.  JLP

#COYBIB  #BeatToulon #PrepareBelieveDeliver #12CountyArmy

RC TOULON : 15 Leigh Halfpenny 14 Delon Armitage 13 Mathieu Bastareaud 12 Matt Giteau 11 Bryan Habana 10 Frederic Michalak 9 Sebastien Tillous-Borde
1 Xavier Chiocci 2 Guilhem Guirado 3 Carl Hayman (capt) 4 Bakkies Botha 5 Ali Williams 6 Juan Smith 7 Juan Fernandez Lobbe 8 Chris Masoe 
16 Jean-Charles Orioli 17 Alexandre Menini 18 Levan Chilachava 19 Steffon Armitage 20 Drew Mitchell 21 Rudi Wulf 22 Michael Claassens 23 Jocelino Suta

European Rugby Champions Cup Semifinal
At Stade Vélodrome, Marseille
Sunday, April 19, KO 3:15pm (Irish time)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (Eng)
AR1 : Nigel Owens (Wal)
AR2 : Greg Garner (Eng)
TMO : Graham Hughes (Eng)

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