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Leinster Rugby vs Castres Olympique
Heineken Cup, Pool 1, Match 2
RDS Showground, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4,
Saturday, 19th October 2013, 15:40

Television: Live - Sky Sports 2, Highlights TG4 22:00

What a difference a win can make!

Travelling to last week's game it was hard to find too many Leinster fans who were expecting to win. Most expected a losing bonus point at best, given the combination of Leinster's poor recent form and their recent record against the Ospreys. However, stung from the loss against Munster and the suggestion that they couldn't perform without leaders like Leo Cullen and Brian O'Driscoll, Leinster's players stood up to be counted and produced a performance of real character.

Leinster have played prettier rugby but there was something to relish in the way they took on the Ospreys in a physical manner, while also winning the tactical battle. The cherry on top was denying Ospreys a losing bonus point which effectively means their game against Northampton on Sunday is practically a knock-out game already. There were more high-scoring games last weekend, but this would have been the result the leading contenders noticed the most.

Leinster are back in play!

Of course the great work last week will be wasted if they don't follow it up with a home win tomorrow. They welcome the French champions in Castres, but it's fair to say that this club haven't always displayed a champion's attitude in this competition. Too often in the past, they've quite clearly concentrated on the Top14 and simply gone through the motions in Europe. They've raised the odd rattle at home, indeed they beat Leinster in the Stade Pier-Antoine five seasons ago, but their away record of two wins from their last twenty two away games in Europe tells its own story.

There are signs that their priorities are shifting somewhat though. They've had a bad start to the defence of their title with four wins from nine leaving them eleventh in the league. Typically their four wins have come at home with all their defeats on the road. To be fair, the leaders Toulon have only one more win than them in what has been a very tight start to the French league so you wouldn't want to read too much into their position. What was unusual though for Castres was their decision to rest several key men two weeks ago before their first European match. They paid the price too, taking a 34-0 hiding from newly promoted Brive. However it was possibly worth it, when they beat highly fancied Northampton at home last week.

Castres won their championship last year on the back on a big tough pack and a reliable kicker in South African scrum-half Rory Kockott. In the Top14 that's generally all that's required really. They do have one or two decent backs in the likes of Scotland's Max Evans and international full back Brice Dulin, but they're really all about their big mean pack. They've made only two changes to the team that started last week. Dulin has recovered from injury to replace Geoffrey Palis at fullback and in the pack former Ulster backrow Pedrie Wannenburg comes in for the injured Piula Faasalele at openside flanker. It's a big pack featuring Scotland's second row Richie Gray, who's rebuilding his career at Castres after a spectacularly ill-advised move to Sale Sharks lasted only one miserable season. With wet weather forecast Castres will play a simple attritional game and try to wear Leinster down. It's a fairly brutal and dour gameplan, but it can be effective as last season showed.

For Leinster there is only one change with Martin Moore coming in for the injured Mike Ross at tight-head prop, with Michael Bent fit enough to provide cover on the bench. It's a big ask for Moore, as this is only his third senior start and he's packing down against one of the highest rated scrums in France. However the manner in which he played when he came on last week will settle nerves. Coach Matt O'Connor has stuck with the rest of his winning side from last week.

People expecting an expansive game from Leinster tomorrow may be a little disappointed as conditions may dictate a gameplan similar enough to last week. In truth, the win is all important as in a pool this tight, five wins should be enough to top the group. So while a bonus point would be nice, it won't be a major priority.

So don't expect great entertainment tomorrow afternoon at the RDS but if Leinster have two wins from two by evening, the fans won't mind too much.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby

Castres Olympique
Teams Rob Kearney 15 Brice Dulin
Fergus McFadden 14 Romain Martial
Brendan Macken 13 Romain Cabannes
Gordon D'Arcy 12 Remy Lamerat
Dave Kearney 11 Max Evans
Jimmy Gopperth 10 Remi Tales
Isaac Boss 9 Rory Kockott

Cian Healy 1 Mihai Lazar
Sean Cronin 2 Brice Mach
Martin Moore 3 Anton Peikrishvili
Devin Toner 4 Richie Gray
Mike McCarthy 5 Rodrigo Capo Ortega
Kevin McLaughlin 6 Jannie Bornman
Sean O'Brien 7 Pedrie Wannenburg
Jamie Heaslip (C) 8 Antonie Claassen

Replacements Aaron Dundon 16 Marc-Antoine Rallier
Jack McGrath 17 Karena Wihongi
Michael Bent 18 Saimone Taumoepeau
Quinn Roux 19 Christophe Samson
Rhys Ruddock 20
Ibrahim Diarra
Eoin Reddan 21 Julien Tomas
Ian Madigan 22 Geoffrey Palis
Luke Fitzgerald 23 Daniel Kirkpatrick

Not Considered
due to Injury
Jack Conan,
Edward Byrne,
Adam Byrne,
Andrew Goodman,
Leo Cullen,
Shane Jennings,
Jordi Murphy,
Richardt Strauss,
Brian O'Driscoll,
Lote Tuqiri,
Mike Ross

Romain Teulet,
Cedric Garcia,
Yannick Caballero,
Marcel Garvey,
Yannick Forestier,
Piula Faasalele,
Mathieu Babillot
Officials Referee: Greg Garner (RFU),
Assistant Referees: Martin Fox (RFU), Robin Goodliffe (RFU),
4th Official: Eanna O'Dowd (IRFU),
5th Official: Gary Glennon (IRFU),
TMO: Graham Hughes (RFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2013-10-18