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Leinster Rugby vs Castres Olympique
RDS Showground
Saturday, 6th December 2008, 13:35

Television: Live Sky Sports 2 - Highlights RTE 2 20.00
Season Ticket: Heineken Cup 2 - Picture of Victor Costello

After getting back to winning ways last week against the Dragons, Leinster resume their Heineken Cup campaign with crucial back to back fixtures against Castres. Having made a perfect start to the group with a maximum haul of ten points from the first two matches, Leinster know the next two games could go a long way towards securing qualification. In stark contrast, Castres have lost their first two matches and are second from bottom in the French league, however Michael Cheika had gone out of his way this week to warn against any complacency.

As a former player with Castres, Chieka knows the club well and he knows that underestimating their pride can be a very dangerous business. His mantra this week has been that Leinster must approach this and next week's games as test matches. It's the type of attitude that Leinster need to have to develop more consistency.  He's also conscious of how difficult it can be to win these mid-group back to back fixtures, Leinster having only won one such series, against Agen, under his watch.

It has been a struggle for Castres this season and things weren't made any easier for them when they lost French captain Lionel Nallet. Arguably the form second row in Europe, more importantly he's the heartbeat of the team and his loss is a major blow.  He's not the only injury either; they're also missing the likes of Laloala Milford, Brad Fleming, Phil Christophers and Chris Masoe.

Castres have named a team with an interesting mix of nationalities with representatives from Namibia, Samoa, Argentina, Georgia, Australia and New Zealand.  In the backline Kevin Senio, Steve Kefu and Laurant Mazars provide some experience and former Cardiff out-half Cameron McEntyre starts at full back.  The pack lacks big names, with Namibian Captain Kees Lensing perhaps the most recognisable.  However it's still a typically big and tough French pack and it would be foolish to dismiss them.

Leinster make four changes to the side that started last weekend. After being rested last week, Rob Kearney and Luke Fitzgerald return in place of Simon Keogh and Fergus McFadden respectively. Keogh drops to the bench and McFadden is a tad unlucky to be omitted altogether given his fine performance last week. Jonny Sexton finally makes his first Heineken Cup start at out-half and he'll be itching to prove himself at this level after an impressive forty minutes against Wasps.

In the pack CJ Van der Linde returns from illness to take his place at tight head prop, which means Stan Wright moves across to loosehead and Cian Healy drops to the bench. With the continued absence of Leo Cullen, Devin Toner is developing a fine second row partnership with Malcolm O'Kelly. His work-rate last week was superb and his performance at the restarts outstanding. The last change is at number eight where Jamie Heaslip returns from a week off to replace Stephen Keogh.  With Shane Jennings failing to recover from a knee injury, Sean O'Brien remains in the seven jersey and will look to continue with the form that won him the man of the match award last week.

There will be much pre-match speculation about the strength of the Castres team and their attitude towards the match, but the Leinster squad need to forget all that and concentrate on securing the win.  Leinster have paid the price in the past for taking opponents too lightly.  They need to approach the match with a professional attitude and do the work to secure the win.  If they are out of sight early, then by all means go for the bonus point, but get the win first.  Encouragingly this seems to be the exact attitude the squad are preaching.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Castres Olympique
Teams Girvan Dempsey 15 Cameron McIntyre
Shane Horgan
14 Charles SIKA
Brian O'Driscoll 13 Steve Kefu
Luke Fitzgerald
12 Lionel Mazars
Rob Kearney
11 Rafael Carballo
Jonathan Sexton
10 Anthony Lagardere
Chris Whitaker (C)
9 Kevin Senio

Stan Wright
1 Kees Lensing
Bernard Jackman 2 Mathieu Bonello
CJ van der Linde
3 Luc Ducalcon
Devin Toner
4 Ludovic Michaux
Malcolm O'Kelly
5 Colin Gaston
Rocky Elsom
6 Lei Tomiki
Sean O'Brien
7 Darron Nell
Jamie Heaslip
8 Florian Faure

Replacements Brian Blaney
16 Akvsenti Giorgadze
Cian Healy
17 Yannick Forestier
Trevor Hogan
18 Fabio Staibano
Stephen Keogh
19 Joe Tekori
Chris Keane
20 Steve Malonga
David Holwell
21 Sébastian Tillous-Borde
Simon Keogh
22 Thomas Bouquié

Not considered
due to injury
Isa Nacewa (Arm)
Gordon D'Arcy (Arm)
Leo Cullen (Collarbone)
Felipe Contepomi (Hand)
Ronnie McCormack (Neck)
Stephen Knoop (Neck)
Shane Jennings (Knee)

Officials Referee: Peter Allan (SRU)
Assistant Referees: Rob Dickson (SRU), Ronnie Dumma (SRU)
4th Official: Alfie Acheson (ARLB)
5th Official: Des Woods (ARLB)
TMO: Jim Yuille

by Jim O'Connor, © 2008-12-05