Saturday, October 20, 2018

Preview : Toulouse v Leinster

It clearly states in the Hitch-hikers Guide To Playing European Rugby (now also available on narrated by Stu Barnes as he has nothing else to do) that all away matches on French soil are meant to be approached in the same fashion.  

Above all else, the losing bonus point is to be treated as preciously as the last available doughnut in a Krispy Kreme.  So clearly Leinster's mindset when it nears kickoff time at the Stade Ernest Wallon will be to focus on defence and setpieces and be sure to take whatever chances come their way.

But can the plan really be that straightforward given that all recent evidence points to the fact that the four stars on our jersey shine a heck of a lot brighter than those of our hosts this Sunday?

Just look at what happened last weekend.  Sure, both Toulouse and Leinster started their campaign with wins, and theirs was away from home, but our one extra point on the pool table doesn't come near to outlining the difference.

Maxime Medard snatched (or more to the point swatted) victory away from Bath while the night before at the RDS, Leinster beat up on Wasps so badly that the phrase "got stung" probably needs to be embargoed in all forms of media after chronic overuse.

And the bookies appear to agree.  We travel to the south of France as eight-point favourites, which would be quite a burden for most clubs, but if this team can continue the form it has been showing so far this season, there's every chance we can bust through that prediction.

But first let's look at the home side.  Yes, they were lucky to emerge from the Rec with four match points but that doesn't mean they were poor by any stretch.  

From Zach Holmes with his innovation, to Cheslin Kolbe with his turn of pace, to Sofiane Guitone with his strong finishing, to Medard with his vast experience, to the potential 'Huget' impact on their bench, they have plenty of ways they can hurt us if we give them a chance.

But will we give them a chance?  While we have more than our fair share of attacking options ourselves, I actually think the 'defence first' approach I mention above is still the way to go on Sunday.  

And making minimal changes to the lineup certainly doesn't hurt either.  Rob Kearney would be missed from any side but Jordan Larmour is certainly a decent option to replace him and once Joe Tomane can keep his channel clean defensively, this is an excellence chance for him to showcase what he brings.

In the pack my only worry will be the lineouts, which were shaky last week although it never hurt us.  Otherwise all I can see right the way down to the bench is solid scrums, tough tackling and gainline busting carries.  The fact that Toulouse are without the likes of Jerome Kaino certainly doesn't hurt either.

So for my prediction I'm going to be optimistic in that I think we'll beat the oddsmakers' spread, but I'll still keep the kind caution that the bounce of a rugby ball demands.  I think come full time we'll be ahead by 10-12 though possibly while conceding a few more points than we'd like. 

In the meantime don't forget the A team have their Celtic Cup final over in Llanelli on Saturday afternoon.  After falling at the final hurdle of last season's British & Irish Cup, it's great to have another chance to win silverware in 2018 and they certainly have shown they can do it.

One name that has stood out in the home matches I have seen is Scott Penny. Yes, there's yet more quality back rowers on the way along the assembly line!  Having played schools rugby only last spring, he seems like someone who wants his name known at the highest level asap.  So best of luck to the lads over in Wales.

Finally - bon voyage to all those travelling this's to us bringing home all the spoils!!!  JLP


Toulouse : 15. Thomas Ramos, 14. Cheslin Kolbe, 13. Sofiane Guitoune, 12. Romain Ntamack, 11. Maxime Médard, 10. Zack Holmes, 9. Sébastien Bézy,
1. Clément Castets, 2. Julien Marchand (c), 3. Charlie Faumuina, 4. Florian Verhaeghe, 5. Joe Tekori, 6. Rynhardt Elstadt, 7. Alban Placines, 8. Selevasio Tolofua.
Replacements:16. Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17. David Faimafiliotama'ita'i Ainuu, 18. Maks Van Dyk, 19. Pierre Gayraud, 20. Louis Madaule, 21. Yoann Huget, 22. Antoine Dupont, 23. Arthur Bonneval

Heineken Champions Cup 2018/19 Round 2
Sunday, October 21, 2018
KO :3:15pm
Stade Ernest-Wallon

Referee: Wayne Barnes
AR1:Mathew O'Grady
AR2: Paul Dix
TMO: Didier Mastoumecq
Live on BT Sport

Leinster ‘A’ matchday squad v Scarlets Development : 15. Jack Kelly > CAPTAIN 14. Adam Byrne 13. Jimmy O'Brien 12. Tom Daly 11. Michael Silvester 10. Ciarán Frawley 9. Hugh O'Sullivan
1. Peter Dooley 2. Ronan Kelleher 3. Vakh Abdaladze 4. Ross Molony 5. Mick Kearney 6. Josh Murphy 7. Scott Penny 8. Caelan Doris
16. Bryan Byrne 17. Ed Byrne 18. Jack Aungier 19. Ian Nagle 20. Oisín Dowling 21. Patrick Patterson 22. Harry Byrne 23. David Hawkshaw

Celtic Cup Final
Saturday, October 20, 2018
Parc y Scarlets
Kickoff 4pm


Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019