McAlister: Toulouse can improve
December 12, 2011
Louis Picamoles on the charge against Harlequins © Getty Images
The showdown between the pacesetters in the English and French domestic tournaments saw Toulouse move four points clear at the top of Pool 6 with the return leg in the intimidating and raucous atmosphere of Le Stadium to follow on Sunday afternoon.
"This was a big one for us - Harlequins were on a bit of a roll with 14 from 14 so to knock them off was big for us," McAlister said. "Our forwards gave us some good ball to work with, and we were very lucky in that regard and that enabled us to score two good tries.
"However, it is going to be difficult next week when they come to our ground because they are going to be putting it all in so this week we have to concentrate on our physicality because Harlequins are a very physical side so we have to turn up on Sunday and do the job.
"We all know we have to win at home so we have a really big game this weekend. But we also know that Gloucester came over and nearly beat us at home so while it is going to be difficult against Harlequins we are looking forward to the challenge.
"Harlequins are good at building phases so it was a big deal for us to front up to them because they physically dominate a lot of teams in the Premiership. We then have two more hard games in January against Connacht and Gloucester so it is vitally important we win at Le Stadium and we will refocus on that this week."
McAlister and Wallaby Luke Burgess are a new Antipodean international half-back partnership with the four times Heineken Cup champions and after just three games together the signs are becoming ominous for the rest.
"I am new to the club so the Toulouse history is all sort of new to me and although they have done well in the past, that is for sure, this is a new team and with a lot of guys coming back from the World Cup we are still integrating everyone into the side," said McAlister. "But I think we are now starting to hit our straps and, although it took us a few weeks to get going, we played well against Toulon before the Harlequins game and the confidence is growing.
"We need to keep building as a team and with a new combination at 9/10 with Luke Burgess and myself - we had not played together before and this was only our third game together - it is going to take time. But we definitely want to create some sort of legacy here and I am loving life in Toulouse. It is a lot different from home but we are embracing the French culture and enjoying ourselves."
And star winger Timoci Matanavou is loving life at Toulouse having turned down one of their Top 14 rivals in the summer. "I had a contact from Clermont last summer but I like the way Toulouse play their rugby," he said. "They are a really professional club and they work hard.
"I am surrounded by international players and so far this season I am the top try scorer in the Championship and have scored three tries in the Heineken Cup. Things are going well for me and the team. We knew it was going to be hard before we went to Harlequins. They had won 14 games in a row and the coach said that if we lost the game it would make it difficult for us in the Pool.
"So, we are happy with the win and we do have a lot of speed out wide in our side with Vincent Clerc on one wing and Maxime Medard at full back."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
ESPN looks at the forthcoming season of the Guinness PRO12 and assesses how each of the 12 teams will do
"Like the Treaty of Versailles, despite all the promises, the new Participation Agreement is certainly not the final solution." John Taylor writes
"We know where we are going and we know where we want to get but how long that will take is anybody's guess." David Humphreys on his plans for Gloucester
Jim Mallinder and Justin Burnell were sat on the same top table, but in different circumstances. Tom Hamilton reports on the Aviva Premiership season launch