Toulouse will enjoy the story surrounding tomorrow’s Heineken Champions Cup semifinals. The point is that Leinster are strong favorites and if they do anything remotely close to their best they will secure their place in the final.
Even if the five-time champions haven’t been at their best this season, they remain a tough opponent. So Leinster can dismantle them.
Accelerate the pace
Over the last two rounds, Munster and Ulster have shown how to beat Toulouse. The focus is on the need for speed, which plays to Leinster’s strengths.
Leicester couldn’t live with Leinster’s pace and intensity in the opening 40 minutes last weekend. Leo Cullen’s men will be hoping for another quick start tomorrow as they aim to move a large Toulouse pack around the pitch.
It was noticeable how Toulouse’s strikers grew tired as their clash with Munster progressed, slowing down to adjust to lanes and crowds.
Jamison Gibson-Park is in the form of his career and if his pack can get a jerk speed under three seconds he can do damage like he did at Welford Road.
Keep the ball in play
Stuart Lancaster’s famous “Tuesday” sessions were designed to prepare Leinster players for a high ball-in-play time.
Ahead of the quarter-finals, when Cullen was in South Africa with a second-tier squad, Lancaster put the frontliners through their paces with intense hits.
The tactic paid off as Leinster’s condition and the fitness of the Leinster players were superior to Leicester’s.
The ball-in-play time in Toulouse’s win over Munster was 43:58 compared to 27:50 in Leinster’s win over Leicester.
Toulouse are also successful in space but after playing 100 minutes last week and with travel time at such a turnaround, Leinster will be even more keen to test his legs by keeping the ball in play for long periods of time.
Master the collapse
Both of the previous points are based on Leinster ending a bitter struggle in the collapse.
Peter O’Mahony was outstanding last weekend as Toulouse struggled with the Jackal threat from the talismanic Munster captain.
Toulouse will hit Leinster hard around the collapse, with their French hooker Julien Marchand, a particular powerhouse who’s as good at eliminating rucks as he is at winning turnovers. Josh van der Flier will play a key role, while Andrew Porter, like Marchand, is an excellent jackaller.
Whichever side wins in the end will have one foot in the final.
Solidify the set piece
Porter, Rónan Kelleher and Tadhg Furlong will be relieved that Mathieu Raynal will not be in charge tomorrow. Just as at Twickenham, when the French referee was in charge, the scrums at Welford Road were a lottery.
Nevertheless, the way in which Toulouse dismantled the Munster crowd, especially on their own ball, was reminiscent of their raw power. After Leinster threw a few penalties in the set piece against Leicester, Toulouse will be looking for similar dominance from the start.
Karl Dickson is in charge and with both packs looking to make their mark in the first scrum, the Leinster front line needs to paint the right pictures and not hand out cheap penalties for the dependable Thomas Ramos.
With so much talk about whether or not Cullen’s team has closed the gap in terms of physical stakes, this is a big test. Toulouse are likely to go back to the bench with a 6-2 split (six forwards, two defenders) as they look to double the power play.
Munster’s talented young backer Alex Kendellen did an excellent job of silencing the best player in the world. That responsibility will likely fall on Van der Flier tomorrow.
Antoine Dupont plays like a man who could use a break after another busy season, but he just needs a snip to make you pay for it.
Toulouse tend to put him in the outer half in the second half when things don’t go your way as you see the little wizard snap into the 10 and Romain Ntamack move to midfield it’s a safe bet Signs Leinster has done a good job of shutting him down on the fringes.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/champions-cup/the-game-plan-high-tempo-and-ball-in-play-time-is-key-to-leinster-breaking-down-toulouse-41644938.html The game plan: High pace and ball-in-play time are key to Leinster’s win over Toulouse