Friday, December 18, 2015

Preview : Leinster v Toulon

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LEINSTER matchday 23 v Toulon : 15. Rob Kearney 14. Dave Kearney 13. Ben Te'o 12. Luke Fitzgerald 11. Isa Nacewa CAPTAIN 10. Johnny Sexton 9. Eoin Reddan
1. Jack McGrath 2. Richardt Strauss 3. Mike Ross 4. Devin Toner 5. Mike McCarthy 6. Rhys Ruddock 7. Josh van der Flier 8. Jamie Heaslip
16. Sean Cronin 17. Cian Healy 18. Marty Moore 19. Tom Denton 20. Jordi Murphy 21. Nick McCarthy 22. Ian Madigan 23. Zane Kirchner

UPDATE : Cian Healy has been cleared to take his place on the bench

Today was the day the final monthly instalment was paid for those Leinster fans who had chosen to pay for their 2015/16 season ticket over a ten-month period.  It was a very good option for many people and didn’t even cost extra overall to go for it.

I bring this up because rugby fans, particularly Irish ones, have been in the news recently.  Now that things aren’t exactly going our way in Europe for the most part any more, will people still shell out for season tickets in the same numbers whatever the payment plans?

Well, I suppose that all depends on what you definition of “fan” is.  Sometimes it’s easy to forget that, just like rugby players themselves, they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  I have a season ticket and to keep a website going on my team.  You’re reading said website right now.

But as much as I’d love to think my readership knows no bounds, I dare say that for every one person reading this preview, there will be many at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow who won’t ever have heard of this site, nor indeed the other independent ones out there like Whiff of Cordite and Demented Mole and WestTerraceView. My point is that while over 40,000 people like the game enough to go tomorrow, not all of them necessarily LUUURVE it quite as much as yourself and myself.  And I think we need to be very careful.

While I completely share the frustration regarding the fans booing at Thomond as Leicester were winning, or the ones leaving the RDS around the 60-minute mark as Wasps were winning, or the ones queuing for drinks & snacks while a test match is in play at the Aviva, or the guy sitting behind us who’s had a few jars too many and shouts comments on the action even though he clearly hasn’t a clue what’s going on, I’m not so sure we can really afford to be all “good riddance to bad rubbish” if they stay away for good, at least not to all of them.

All I’m saying is that when it comes to the people who are willing to go yet aren’t as immersed in the game’s culture as we are, or indeed aren’t as well-versed on the Laws as we are - let’s just make sure that we diehards don’t add ourselves to the list of reasons they decide not to renew.

Leinster’s European hopes for this season hang by a thread.  Apparently there’s a mathematical chance of us still reaching the last eight but I haven’t even bothered to work it out. Still...our season is far, far from over, and a win over the reigning European champions would be a pretty good start.

But it’s not even all about the result.  Despite the defeat there were a ton of positives about the display last Sunday and we’ve every reason to believe we can get the accuracy up to the levels we need this time.

In my writeup of the match at the Stade Mayol I laid out a case for Johnny Sexton to be starting this Saturday.  I knew it wouldn’t be popular, but I stand by it and, much as I thought, he has been selected to wear 10 again.

We need to have that stadium rocking for him, and of course for the whole team.  We need to cheer when their names are called (including a massive thank you to Kevin McLaughlin who will presented to the crowd before kickoff), and we need regular choruses of “Come On You Boys In Blue” and “Leinster Leinster” throughout.  We need to let Wayne Barnes know (respectfully of course!) whenever a Toulon player hasn’t rolled away after a tackle.  We need to make noise on Toulon lineouts so they have trouble hearing their calls.  And most of all, we need to let spectators sitting on the fence know just what it means to be a Leinster fan.  Not all will come down on our side, but many will and that's what counts.

For the past few seasons I have been going to Leinster matches as more of a blogger.  But tomorrow, I am most definitely going as a fan.  In fact it’s a packed day - around lunchtime I’m going to see Star Wars then I’m heading straight for the Aviva.  There won’t be a whole lot of tweeting, Facebooking, blogging, anything of that sort from myself for the bulk of the day.  There might, just might, be a spot of drinking.

When the rugby kicks off I won’t care about how the pool stands, what happened in the World Cup, who was off their game last week or who’s negotiating contracts.  I’ll be cheering on my lot as we try to beat the other lot - and that’s what it’s all about.

The bookies have the visitors by 5.  They have been scarily good with their spreads lately - predicting both Leinster AND Leinster A’s matches last week pretty much to the point.  But they do get it wrong.  I believe they will tomorrow and Leinster will win, if narrowly by 3-5 pts.  

Is that blind faith?  Absolutely not.  All it takes is a marginal increase in our game and we can really take it to Laporte’s Galacticos.  Of course we’ll need at least a couple of tries, and we’ll probably need one early.  We’ll need another 80-minute tackle fest, particularly in the 12/13 channel, and that won’t be easy with just a 6-day turnaround.  We’ll need to be a lot more clinical on attacking set pieces.  And we will definitely need our superstar outhalf to find his mojo.

But hey - I’m a fan, and I’m backing the boys in blue, and I fully intend to leave my voice behind in my seat when I walk out of that stadium whatever happens.  You with me?  JLP

#COYBIB

PS : Don't forget show your support for Peadar Timmins and Leinster "A" who play over in Ealing tomorrow afternoon. They're aiming to make it four wins from four which should give them one foot in the B&I Cup quarterfinals. Kickoff is 3pm, follow the hashtag #COTAT on the twitter machine.

TOULON : 15 Delon Armitage 14 Bryan Habana 13 Mathieu Bastareaud 12 Ma'a Nonu 11 Drew Mitchell 10 Matt Giteau (capt) 9 Eric Escande
1 Florian Fresia 2 Guilhem Guirado 3 Matt Stevens 4 Jocelino Suta 5 Romain Taofifenua 6 Juan Smith 7 Steffon Armitage 8 Duane Vermeulen
16 Anthony Etrillard 17 Xavier Chiocci 18 Levan Chilachava 19 Mamuka Gorgodze 20 Juan Fernandez Lobbe 21 Tom Taylor 22 Sebastien Tillous-Borde 23 Konstantine Mikautadze

European Rugby Champions Cup 2015/16 Pool 5 Round 4
Saturday, December 19, 2015
At Aviva Stadium, 5:15pm. Live on Sky Sports
Referee Wayne Barnes (England)
Touch Judge 1 Tim Wigglesworth(England)
Touch Judge 2 Paul Dix (England)
TMO Graham Hughes (England)
Citing Commissioner Shaun Gallagher (England)


Leinster 'A' v Ealing Trailfinders (KO Saturday 3pm) : 15: Cian Kelleher 14: Adam Byrne 13: Collie O'Shea 12: Tom Daly 11: Mick McGrath 10: Cathal Marsh 9: Charlie Rock
1: Peter Dooley 2: Bryan Byrne 3: Oisin Heffernan 4: Tadhg Beirne 5: Ross Molony 6: Josh Murphy 7: Dan Leavy 8: Peadar Timmins CAPTAIN
Replacements : 16: Aaron Dundon 17: Jeremy Loughman 18: David O'Connor 19: Tony Ryan 20: Matthew D'Arcy 21: Steve Crosbie 22: Ian Fitzpatrick

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