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Castres Olympique vs Leinster Rugby
European Rugby Champions Cup Pool 2, Round 2
Stade Pierre Antoine, Castres,
Sunday, 27th October 2014, 14:00 (13:00 Irish Time)

Television: Live - Sky Sports 3

Leinster looked in deep trouble at half-time last week against Wasps. After a bright start, they returned to their familiar pattern of error-strewn rugby to give Wasps a nine-point lead at half-time. However they deserve credit for the character they showed in winning the second half 14-0 to take a vital victory. It's a regret that they didn't get a final try to take a bonus point and deny Wasps one, but most fans would have just taken the win at half-time.

So Leinster are off the mark but they need to keep momentum up and now they have yet another trip to Castres, their third trip there in seven seasons. Castres are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get! They were French champions in 2013 and runners up to Toulon last season. However they've rarely even threatened to get out of their pool in Europe in the last few seasons. To be fair, their budget is relatively modest compared to the likes of Toulon and Racing Metro and you could argue their focus on domestic competition is justified with their unlikely success.

However their championship-winning squad has been raided over the last two seasons by the wealthier clubs and they've lost quality players in Joe Tekori, Antonie Claassen, Brice Dulin, Anton Peikrishvili and Marc Andreu. They did manage to hold onto their hugely influential scrum-half Rory Kockott, whose move to Toulon broke down. They also got in Scottish number eight Johnny Beattie and All Black Sitiveni Sivivatu, although the brilliant winger's influence has been blighted by injury so far.

There has been some consternation in the camp with the news that their skipper and out-half Remi Tales is going to be leaving at the end of season. It's not confirmed but it's highly likely he will be joining former Castres players Claassen, Peikrishvili, Andreu and Dulin who've followed their former coaches Laurent Travers and Lauren Labit to Racing Metro. Ironically enough, Tales is leaving to replace a certain Jonny Sexton.

None of this has helped Castres, and their form has been pretty dire so far this season. At the moment they lie in twelfth place in the Top 14 table after winning only three games from nine. However, only four of their games have been at home and they've won three of them, so Leinster still need to be wary of them. Back in 2009 Leinster were beaten on a viciously cold night in Castres after hammering the same team the week before in the RDS. Last season, Leinster managed to win but only after an almighty scare when they went 14-0 after ten minutes as Castres flew out the gate and Leinster missed tackles by the boatload.

Castres lost 25-9 away to Harlequins last weekend but the score doesn't tell the story of the game as the Frenchmen were certainly up for it and were actually level after 50 minutes. Castres have put out a decent enough team for Sunday but Rory Kockott is injured and Ibrahim Diarra is rested. They've made six changes to the team that started last week, including one positional switch.

There are two changes in the backline with Romain Cabannes coming in at inside centre and Cedric Garcia taking over from Kockott at scrum-half. In the pack Ramiro Herrera comes in at tighthead and Rodrigo Capo Ortega starts in the second row. That means Piula Faasalele moves from lock to blindside flanker and Yannick Caballero comes in on the other side with Jannie Bornman remaining at number eight.

Leinster are still not able to recall Mike Ross and Rob Kearney to the starting line-up but they do make three changes. Second row Kane Douglas impressed when he came on last weekend and he comes in for Mike McCarthy in the only change to the pack. In the backline Isaac Boss is somewhat surprisingly brought in for Eoin Reddan at scrum-half. It's a selection which suggests coach Matt O'Connor wants to grind out a win. The other change sees the welcome return of Luke Fitzgerald on the left wing for his first game since the Munster game at the Aviva last March. His recall causes a reshuffle as Darragh Fanning moves to the right wing, Zane Kirchner goes to full back and Ian Madigan returns to inside centre.

In short Leinster just need to win. They can take it for granted that at home Castres nearly always show up and put in a tough, physical performance. They will be focused on making sure Castres don't get as fast a start as they did last January and it's fairly likely that this game will be a lot less entertaining for neutrals.

If Leinster come away with a win though, they won't give a damn.

Team Lineups

Castres Olympique

Leinster Rugby
Teams Geoffrey Palis 15 Zane Kirchner
Max Evans 14 Darragh Fanning
Christopher Tuatara 13 Gordon D'Arcy
Romain Cabannes 12 Ian Madigan
Remi Grosso 11 Luke Fitzgerald
Remi Tales (C) 10 Jimmy Gopperth
Cedric Garcia 9 Isaac Boss

Saimone Taumoepeau 1 Jack McGrath
Brice Mach 2 Sean Cronin
Ramiro Herrera 3 Michael Bent
Richie Gray 4 Devin Toner
Rodrigo Capo Ortega 5 Kane Douglas
Piula Faasalele6 Rhys Ruddock
Yannick Caballero 7 Dominic Ryan
Jannie Bornman8 Jamie Heaslip (C)

Replacements Mathieu Bonello 16 Richardt Strauss
Mihaita Lazar 17 Ed Byrne
Yohan Montes 18 Tadhg Furlong
Christophe Samson 19 Mike McCarthy
Mathieu Babillot 20
Jack Conan
Romain Martial 21 Eoin Reddan
Julien Dumora 22 Noel Reid
Antoine Dupont 23 Mick McGrath

Not Considered
due to Injury
Sitiveni Sivivatu,
Johnny Beattie,
Rory Kockott

Jordi Murphy,
Dave Kearney,
Colin O'Shea,
Tom Daly,
Shane Jennings,
Kevin McLaughlin,
Sean O'Brien,
Cian Healy,
Fergus McFadden,
Martin Moore,
Rob Kearney,
Mike Ross
Officials Referee: Greg Garner (Eng),
Assistant Referees: Andrew Small, Paul Dix (Eng),
Citing Commissioner: Shaun Gallagher (Eng),
TMO: Trevor Fisher (Eng)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2014-10-24