Saturday, January 11, 2020

Preview : Leinster v Lyon


40pts.  FORTY POINTS.  It's Round 5 of the Heineken Champions Cup, the biggest club competition in Europe, and the bookies are tipping Leinster to beat the team ranked 2nd in the Top 14 by almost six converted tries.  Just let that sink in.

And obviously it's that very ranking that is responsible for our Sunday lunchtime guests to send over a classic "French away" selection.  Having watched their last Top 14 outing against Agen, where they went 12-0 only to come back to win 13-12 thanks in part to the introduction from the bench of Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Jonathan Wisniewski, I can see why they'd prioritise the domestic visit of 3rd place Toulon in a couple of weeks by resting both in a match they were probably going to lose anyway.

I mean, it's ok to say that, right?  That Leinster are probably going to win?  It actually took me a few goes to type that last sentence, having deleted it several times for fear of tempting the rugby gods.  But it's not just the Lyon lineup that makes it possible.

Barring injuries to the likes of Sexton, this is arguably the best starting XV Leo Cullen could have named.  And I only say "arguably" because for pretty much every name on the list there's another in the wings who could have been selected and we'd still be predicting a hefty winning margin.

In my writeup of last week's demolition of Connacht I sung the praises of Max Deegan and Dave Kearney in particular for their impressive consistency going back over a year, and it is great to see both rewarded with starting slots this weekend; I very much doubt either will disappoint. 

And for a similar reason it's good to see James Tracy get the nod at hooker as I felt he has done well this season despite pressure from rookie Rónan Kelleher and the returning Sean Cronin.  With Lions either side of him at scrum time, and a Toner/Fardy combo to aim at with his darts, since we're in a mood to make extravagant predictions I don't see why we shouldn't be expecting perfect set pieces as well.

If anything the key name on the team sheet should be Luke McGrath.  He really stood up well last weekend under pressure from those behind him and he'll be keen to show both Leo Cullen and Andy Farrell that he's still a leading candidate for the highest stage.

Off the bench I'll be most interested to see Ciarán Frawley get some game time - if all goes according to plan it will be a good chance for him to show what he can do at this level.  In actual fact I'll be expecting great things from all 8 coming off the bench, as this has been a feature of our performances this season, which is one of the reasons myself and Keego had a moan about fans leaving the RDS early on the podcast during the week.

So there we go - as much as we don't want to sound too confident as fans , when you've won all of your 14 matches, have a near-elite matchday squad and have a seemingly disinterested opposition, it makes it difficult to scoff at a 40-point prediction.  Yet I still can't help but hold back when making mine.

Personally a 1-point win with at least four tries and no injuries would make me perfectly happy, if for no other reason that I'd be able to harp on something mildly negative in my writeup!!!  So I'm going to go for a margin which is half that of the experts.

Of course I'd be delighted if the boys in blue proved the bookies right; here's to 80 minutes of Leinstertainment at its best.  Another reason we'd want them to put on a show is that it's that worst of all (IMO anyway) Sunday lunchtime kickoffs!  Although that would surely leave fans with much less excuse on the leaving early front...hope to see you there (UNTIL THE END 😎)!!! JLP

Lyon : 15 Arnold, 14 Mignot, 13 Dumortier, 12 Regard (cap), 11 Nakaitaci, 10 Buttin, 9 Pélissié.
1 Kaabèche, 2 Alkhazashvili, 3 Gomez Kodela 4 Rolland, 5 Roodt 6 Geraci, 7 Oosthuizen, 8 Bruni.
16 Maurouard, 17 Chaume, 18 Yameogo, 19 Halaifonua, 20 Lambey, 21 Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Moura, 23 Tuisova.

Heineken Champions Cup 2019/20 - Pool 1 Round 5
Sunday, January 12, 2020
KO 1pm
RDS Arena

Ref: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
AR 1: Gwyn Morris (Wales)
AR 2: Mike English (Wales)
TMO: Ian Davies (Wales)
BT Sport, bein Sport.

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