Toulouse v Leinster – Preview

After Leinster obliterated Wasps at the RDS 8 days ago, I immediately looked forward to this weekend’s fixture straight away with huge confidence. I even dared to dream of a fifth star on the jersey next season, such was the incredible performance displayed by the boys in blue! However, as the saying goes, trophies aren’t handed out in October (or something along that line). Although the very early signs look good, Leinster face a big hurdle in their defence of the title, and that’s themselves! I strongly agree with the bookies that Leinster are again favourites to lift the trophy next May in Newcastle, but with that level of expectation I just hope it doesn’t go to their heads. Complacency is the cancer of any great team and one team that will punish you dearly for that is Toulouse.

So, with that, I’ve slowly come back down to earth even after rewatching the Leinster v Wasps game in awe as they scored an incredible try after try after try, after try…..ahem. Well, I did say slowly! The point is, as much as it’s probably warranted to feel confident as a supporter, I just hope that the players don’t get too far ahead of themselves. A few of the leaders in the squad (Rudduck, Toner, Conan) have addressed this during the week, they will not let themselves get carried away and allow complacency to set in. Judging by the three of them speaking about this, it certainly sounds like this is something they’re working hard to avoid within the squad. Leinster and the onlooking supporters will definitely find out during the away clash with fellow 4 time Heineken Cup Champions later today! It’s amazing to think that these two sides combined have accumulated more than a third of the Heineken Cup silverware since it started in 1995! Two true greats reunited, it’s a rugby spectacle for any rugby purists and I’m sure it’ll live up to it!

Here is Leo’s team selection to take on the Pink City’s finest:

15. Jordan Larmour (27)  
14. Joe Tomane (6)  
13. Garry Ringrose (54)  
12. Robbie Henshaw (29)  
11. James Lowe (18)  
10. Johnny Sexton (152)  (CAPTAIN) 
9. Luke McGrath (101)  
1. Cian Healy (196)  
2. Seán Cronin (159)  
3. Tadhg Furlong (89)  
4. Devin Toner (223)  
5. James Ryan (19)  
6. Rhys Ruddock (147)  
7. Josh van der Flier (65)  
8. Jack Conan (79)  

16. James Tracy (72)  
17. Jack McGrath (135)  
18. Andrew Porter (36)  
19. Scott Fardy (26)  
20. Seán O’Brien (119)  
21. Nick McCarthy (30)  
22. Ross Byrne (55)  
23. Rory O’Loughlin (46)  

There’s just one change to the 23 that defeated Wasps 52-3 last weekend. Rob Kearney suffered a quad injury and will be replaced by Lamour who’ll start this week at full back. Joe Tomane will start on the wing, his inclusion should be very interesting as he will be very familiar with Toulouse having played against them over the last few years in the Top14 during his time at Montpellier. The energetic, fan favourite and try scoring machine that is James Lowe will start on the other wing, and HenRose/RingShaw will team up in the centre. It’s as you were with the half backs as Sexton and McGrath will continue at out half and scrum half respectively.

Healy, Cronin and Furlong will make up the front row, as Toner, Ryan, Rudduck, Van der Flier and Conan will complete the pack. Incredible strength in that starting 15, and the bench will not give our opposition any respite! If and when Healy, Cronin, Furlong and Toner need to come off, they’ll be replaced with Tracy, McGrath, Porter and Fardy. Each of those players could easily start the match and no one would be too worried. So too if Van Der Flier comes off, sure we only have Sean O’Brien to come on!! The other three replacements are Ross Byrne, Nick Mc Carthy (set to join the Leinster A team down in Limerick next season 😉) and Rory O’Loughlin. So all in all, it’s a full strength side ready to rock the Stade Ernest Wallon.

Toulouse too are well stocked for this match, although losing former All Black Jerome Kaino due to a citing earlier in the week. It should be a firm test for both sides who will be looking to take control of this group following Bath and Wasps’ draw yesterday in Group 1.

Where the game will be won

Toulouse are a strong, calm and skilful bunch, with a never give up attitude to how they approach the game. If you look at last weekend’s game against Bath, Toulouse kept charging at Bath right up until the final whistle in order to secure victory.

Leinster will need to keep their tempo high and not shift down a gear for the entire 80 minutes, Toulouse will sniff out any opportunity to score if Leinster don’t have their wits about them. Toulouse will probably deploy a fast line defence which they’ll hope will keep Leinster from building too many phases and momentum in attack. The best approach against the champions is not to try and match their intensity but to attack their lines hard at every opportunity in the hope of disrupting their set plays and overall game plan, Racing 92 were the only team to do this last season and the approach was quite effective even though they suffered a narrow defeat. As a result, I believe Leinster will need to bring a varied approach to their own game plan with attacking/defensive plays that can adapt to what their opposition is firing at them. If Leinster can keep their line outs ticking over nicely and secure their own scrums, this will more than likely be the platform from which Leinster will score.

Prediction

I think Toulouse will have been targeting this game since the pools were announced during the Summer. They know that if they can get a win against Leinster at home, it sets them up nicely to top or at least get out of their pool. So, don’t be surprised if you see a very different performance to the one we saw against Bath last week. I expect the home side to attack hard from the off and try to unsettle Leinster. However, just like last week, I feel that Leinster are too well stocked with talent to fall short in France, but I don’t feel there’ll be a huge amount of daylight on the scoreboard. Leinster have come out saying that they’re not looking at this season with a mindset to defend their title, rather they are seeing it as a fresh opportunity to win the Heineken Cup. They are clearly putting last season’s memories of success aside and focusing on winning week in and week. This is great to hear as a lot of previous winners harped about title defences before and fell short, probably due to the unneeded pressure that it puts on the players and coaches. I expect a tough battle today and a highly entertaining contest from these two classy sides. Ultimately, victory will come down to who dominates the collisions and set pieces for long periods. Going by recent evidence, look no further than the boys in blue to achieve that!

Toulouse 17 – Leinster 25

Match day result: Toulouse 28 – Leinster 27

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