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Thursday 24 January 2019

Cullen impressed by 'amazing' Toulouse evolution

Leinster’s Jonathan Sexton will miss today’s game
Leinster’s Jonathan Sexton will miss today’s game

It is tempting to give Toulouse more credit than they have earned, partly because they lie second in the French Top-14 and partly because of their tradition in the Champions Cup.

Even as Leinster struggled to regain the trophy they held in 2009, 2011 and 2012, they were held out as European aristocrats, a target to be taken down by Toulon and Clermont-Auvergne as Toulouse struggled to make an impact in recent years.

Now, there is evidence that Toulouse are back to the forefront of the most competitive, most compelling club competition in the world.

There is something magical about Toulouse in that they set the standard for so long, reeling off their four titles in 1996, 2003, 2005 and 2010.

"Toulouse were a team I had so much admiration for when I was growing up, all through those formative years of teens, early 20s," said Leinster coach Leo Cullen.

"You watched all those great teams that they had, some of the great players that they had and the way they played.

"I used to sit back and watch and wonder, like, 'how do they go about doing that', the way they would keep the ball alive, offloading, flooding channels, support channels."

This season, Cullen has been reminded of those golden years by what Ugo Mola is building in The Pink City.

"You see it in their game. It's an amazing evolution."

The return to former glories may not be far away.

Cullen holds the opinion that Toulouse are not making the mistakes now they made since last winning the European Cup in 2010.

"You talk about some of the foreigners maybe that they've brought in that don't quite fit the way they try to play for a number of years.

"I don't know, that's just me observing from very far away," he said.

"Now, they've come back full circle with a lot of French players that fit the way they want to play. Sometimes it's a little bit of luck more than design.

"Everyone goes out to sign players to fit the way you're trying to do things."

Toulouse are getting back to what made them special in the first place with the exquisite skills of Antoine Dupont, Romain N'Tamack and Cheslin Kolbe complimenting Sofiane Guitoune, Maxime Medard and Yoann Huget.

This should not distract Leinster from their primary goal, to make Toulouse react to what they want to do.

"For us, it's about winning the game, putting in a performance where we go out and play well," added Cullen.

"There are so many variables - the opposition, the referee, different things that go on in the game.

"We need to be adaptable because not everything always goes according to the plan."

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