Revenge on the menu for Leinster
April 29, 2011
David Skrela helped Toulouse to a quarter-final victory over Biarritz © Getty Images
Reigning European champions Toulouse travel to the Aviva Stadium in Dublin to face 2009 winners Leinster in the first Heineken Cup semi-final this Saturday.
Toulouse beat Leinster at the same stage last year on the way to winning a record fourth Heineken Cup. In this year's quarter-final Guy Noves' side proved their ability to win away from home on the big occasions as they beat Biarritz in San Sebastian with a dramatic 27-20 extra-time victory.
However, Leinster, who beat Leicester Tigers in the 2009 final, will be optimistic of overturning the traveling Frenchmen after putting in some of the most impressive performances of this year's tournament, including a 17-10 quarter-final victory over the Tigers.
Leinster - Player to Watch He was on fine form against Leicester in the last eight, but fly-half Jonny Sexton will have to raise his game again if the home side are to combat a Toulouse side heavy on class and winning mentality.
Leinster - Team News: Joe Schmidt has opted for the same starting XV that saw off the Tigers, with that game's try-scorer, Isa Nacewa, at fullback, Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy in midfieled and Kevin McLaughlin, Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip in the back-row.
Toulouse - Player to Watch: Keeping Thierry Dusautoir on the bench is Jean Bouilhou, who knows all about winning in Europe. The flanker is a workhorse around the field and a dangerous lineout weapon, he bleeds rouge et noir.
Toulouse - Team News: David Skrela starts at fly-half, with Clement Poitrenaud again deployed at inside-centre. Joining Bouilhou in the back-row are Yannick Nyanga, try-scorer against Biarritz, and Louis Picamoles while Cedric Heymans, Maxime Medard and Vincent Clerc make up the back-three. On the bench, Gregory Lamboley is a doubt due to injury and will be replaced by Rupeni Caucaunibuca should he fail a fitness test.
Key Battle: The back-row contest will be fierce, with Toulouse offering bags of experience and Leinster plenty of pace, power and controlled aggression.
Trivia: Toulouse will be appearing in their tenth Heineken Cup semi-final - one more than Munster.
Stats: Toulouse fly-half David Skrela is the competition's leading goal kicker with 31 successful kicks.
"Potentially this could be our final game in the Heineken Cup this season so it will be a clear case of 'do or die,' there can be no holding back." - Leinster prop Cian Healy.
"In my opinion there are only a couple of teams in Europe that you could class as a complete side - and Leinster are one of those teams." - Toulouse back-rower Shaun Sowerby.
Prediction: Leinster's dynamic back-row and creative backline to prove too much for the reigning champions.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Huw Richards profiles French forward Walter Spanghero, a man who even rugby's hard men thought was a tough nut
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter