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Brute force the plan

Leinster will have to battle it out with Toulouse's giant pack of forwards


Jonathan Sexton. Pic: Sportsfile

Jonathan Sexton. Pic: Sportsfile


Jonathan Sexton. Pic: Sportsfile

You can call it misdirection - if you like.

All the gushing praise around Toulouse's three quarters has flowed from the magical skills of Antoine Dupont, Thomas Ramos, Sofiane Guitoune and Cheslin Kolbe.

Even second row Richie Gray has fallen under the spell cast by his team-mate Kolbe.

"Yeah. You can't touch him. You try and tackle his shadow. That's the best you can do," said the Scotland international.

"He's unbelievable, isn't he? He can really make something out of nothing."


James Lowe of Leinster. Pic: Sportsfile

James Lowe of Leinster. Pic: Sportsfile


James Lowe of Leinster. Pic: Sportsfile

Leinster have been on the receiving end, pausing concentration at the end of the Pool match in January, to invite Kolbe to dazzle for a typically mesmeric individual try.


The latest mouth-open theatrics came against Clermont-Auvergne last Sunday.

"He slipped, fell over and then he managed to score a 40-metre try. It's just silly stuff - you can't believe it is possible," added Gray.

"He is having a great time over here. He has a lot of fun with the boys and just goes out onto the field and makes space for himself."

The eyes are drawn to the fleet-footed back division when coach Ugo Mola is sending over a gang of bully-boys to dominate.

For example, Leinster will have to subdue Toulouse's muscular breakaway unit of 110 kilos of Jerome Kaino, 129kg of Joe Tekori and 115kg of Rynhardt Elstadt.

In addition, Mola had opted for six forwards on the bench with back row reinforcements in 120kg of Piula Faasalele and the more manageable Francois Cros

The message is clear: Toulouse are coming to Dublin to overpower Leinster.

It is just as well Jonathan Sexton returns and the champions' front-five is in place to take their place in the trenches.

The back row of Rhys Ruddock, Sean O'Brien and Jack Conan will need all the help they can get on the gain line.

The most interesting permutation is that of their overseas three, James Lowe and Scott Fardy making the cut ahead of Jamison Gibson-Park. This speaks to the confidence the coaches have in 21-year-old scrum-half Hugh O'Sullivan.

"Everything is on the line in the semi-final," issued coach Stuart Lancaster.


"We found that out two years ago against Clermont. The pain of losing that semi-final is still etched in everyone's memory.

"Whether you've played them before or not played them before, it's irrelevant what has happened in the past. It is what happens in the 80 minutes," he stressed.

The game will be won and lost on the gain-line and the presence of so many huge men in the Toulouse pack might just convince Sexton to turn them with his kicking game.

This is where the cat-and-mouse strategy can come into play.

It is more likely Leinster will look to tire out Toulouse and seek to exploit one-on-ones with the more cumbersome members of their foot soldiers.

"Toulouse have shown in the last number of games they have the ability, more than any other team I've coached against, to score something out of nothing.

"When you put the four-time European champions up against the four-time European champions, it will be an amazing game."

Leinster: R Kearney; J Larmour, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, J Lowe; J Sexton (capt), L McGrath; C Healy, S Cronin, T Furlong, D Toner, J Ryan, R Ruddock, S O'Brien, J Conan.

Replacements: J Tracy, E Byrne, M Bent, S Fardy, M Deegan; H O'Sullivan, R Byrne, R O'Loughlin.

Toulouse: T Ramos; Y Huget, S Guitoune, P Ahki, C Kolbe; A Dupont, S Bezy; C Castets, P Mauvaka, C Faumuina, R Arnold, R Gray, R Elstadt, J Tekori, J Kaino (capt).

Replacements: G Marchand, C Baille, M van Dyk, S Tolofua, P Faaselele, F Cros; R Ntamack, M Medard.

Verdict: Leinster

CHAMPIONS cup semi-fiNAL


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