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Leinster Rugby vs Stade Toulousain
Heineken Champions Cup Semi-final
Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Sunday, 21th April 2019, 15:15

TV: Live on BT Sports

It's another massive game for Leinster at the Aviva stadium as they take on Toulouse looking to make the final for the second year running.

After losing in Toulouse by a point in a thrilling game on a warm and sunny October Sunday, revenge was served cold in January in the RDS. Actually never mind cold, it was bloody freezing as Leinster dominated on their way to a crushing 29-13 win. However the free-spirited Toulouse will find the more open environs of the Aviva Stadium on a warm Easter Sunday a lot more to their liking. Despite that comprehensive defeat their form has still been very good with only Leinster and Toulon beating them in their last 24 games.

Their quarter-final win over Racing when down to 14 men for an hour of the game was one of the finest games in the tournament for years. When out-half Zack Holmes got his marching orders it seems like curtains, but as a team they kept playing attacking rugby and scored two fantastic tries. Then they hung on for dear life and showed they're no mugs in defence either. They were of course being cheered on to the rafters by Leinster fans as it spared us a pricey trip to Paris. But now Leinster have to make home advantage count and reassert their quality after a frustrating few weeks.

The performance against Ulster in the quarter-final wasn't great but they did just enough. It's their only win of their last four games as they lost to the two Scottish teams and drew with Benetton in Pro14 games that meant a hell of a lot more to the opposition than to the already qualified Leinster. In last week's game against Glasgow Leinster actually played some decent rugby for 60 minutes and put themselves in a good position to win the game but Glasgow's first choice line-up and greater need won the day in the end. But though the result had no meaning for Leinster, the defeat will still sting as they've just become so used to winning in the last couple of seasons. There's a lot of questions over the form and fitness of several key players although it was good to see Robbie Henshaw and Devin Toner hit the ground running.

They take on a Toulouse team full of confidence after their crazy 47-44 shoot-out win over Clermont last week. Perhaps the only thing holding Toulouse back this season has been the lack of a truly quality fly-half. Zack Holmes looks no more than a journeyman and Romain Ntamack and Thomas Ramos have been given runs there but look more effective at centre and full-back respectively.

However in the great French tradition if your ten isn't going well, just play your nine there and so Antoine Dupont, so brilliant at scrum-half all season for both France and Toulouse, has recently moved to out-half. He did very well against Clermont last week and he's given the shirt again with Sebastien Bezy at nine. In the back three Thomas Ramos is a superb place-kicker and wings Yoann Huget and Cheslin Kolbe are both players who can score a try from nothing. The prolific Sofiane Guitoune and former Connacht player Pita Ahki are given the nod in the centre.

In the pack Clement Castets, Peato Mauvaka and Charlie Faumuina are the front row while the two Richies, Arnold and Gray make up the second row. They've named a massive back row in Rynhardt Elstadt, Joe Tekori and skipper Jerome Kaino and their sheer size of the pack would indicate they're not coming to Dublin to be pushed around for a second time. There's further quality to come in from the bench in Cyril Baille, Selevasio Tolofua, Romain Ntamack and Maxime Medard.

For Leinster Leo Cullen has made a number of changes from last weekend and the main news is that captain Johnny Sexton is back from injury having recovered from a quad injury. Elsewhere in the backs Rob Kearney again starts at full back having finally broke his try duck last week. Jordan Larmour is again on the right wing but James Lowe comes in on the left wing in a move that sees Jamison Gibson-Park omitted from the match-day squad.

In the centre Robbie Henshaw is again selected but is joined this week by Garry Ringrose. In the half backs Sexton is partnered by Luke McGrath. In the pack only Devin Toner and Sean O'Brien are retained from last week with Cian Healy, Sean Cronin and Tadhg Furlong starting in the front row and Toner and James Ryan behind them in the second row. Rhys Ruddock is selected at blindside with O'Brien again at openside and finally Jack Conan is at number eight.

For all their woes with injury this season, it's a very strong side and probably only Dan Leavy and Josh van der Flier of the missing list would seriously be pushing for inclusion. With the sun on their backs Toulouse will look to unleash hell on Leinster up front while also bamboozling them in the backs. But Leinster have been here before and met similar challenges and hopefully with the team almost near full strength, they can do the same again tomorrow.


Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Stade Toulousain
Teams Rob Kearney 15 Thomas Ramos
Jordan Larmour 14 Yoann Huget
Garry Ringrose
13 Sofiane Guitoune
Robbie Henshaw 12 Pita Ahki
James Lowe 11 Cheslin Kolbe
Johnny Sexton (C)
10 Antoine Dupont
Luke McGrath 9 Sebastien Bezy

Cian Healy 1 Clement Castets
Sean Cronin 2 Peato Mauvaka
Tadhg Furlong 3 Charlie Faumuina
Devin Toner 4 Richie Arnold
James Ryan 5 Richie Gray
Rhys Ruddock 6 Rynhardt Elstadt
Sean O'Brien
7 Joe Tekori
Jack Conan 8 Jerome Kaino (C)

Replacements James Tracy 16 Guillaume Marchand
Ed Byrne 17 Cyril Baille
Michael Bent 18 Maks Van Dyk
Scott Fardy 19 Selevasio Tolofua
Max Deegan 20
Piula Faasalele
Hugh O'Sullivan 21 Francois Cros
Ross Byrne 22 Romain Ntamack
Rory O'Loughlin 23 Maxime Medard

Not Considered
due to Injury
Dan Leavy,
Josh van der Flier,
Mick Kearney,
Ross Molony,
Noel Reid


Officials Referee: Wayne Barnes (Eng) ,
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce (Eng), Matthew Carley (Eng),
TMO: Rowan Kitt (Eng),
Citing Commissioner: John Byett (Eng)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2019-05-18

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