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State Toulousain vs Leinster Rugby
Stade Ernest Wallon, Toulouse
Sunday, 18th November 2007, 21:00 CET

Leinster travel to Toulouse with happy memories of the last time they travelled to this rugby hotbed. In April 2006 "les bleus" put the then reigning champions to the sword 41 - 35, a score line that if anything, flattered Toulouse.

Although an entire Heineken Cup season has passed, one that was ultimately disappointing for both of these teams, the memories from that Spring day must be fresh in both team's minds.

A lot of the same personnel will take the field on Sunday night.  Three of Leinster's try scorers O'Driscoll, Jowitt and Horgan are still around but sadly Denis Hickie who scored such a sublime try on the day has retired. Felipe Contepomi will relish an opportunity to resume a role he performed all summer  - namely being a thorn in the side of French teams.

Toulouse have a few players remaining from 2006 with the likes of Jauzion and Poitrenaud as well as Ellisalde keeping the backs ticking over. It will be interesting to see Ellisalde's battle with Byron Kelleher for the number 9 shirt this season. Frederic Michalak has departed however and it remains to be seen whether Gaffie du Toit can pull the strings for Toulouse in the same way. Toulouse boast an impressive back row, with Yannick Nyanga and Thierry Dusautoir, so impressive in the World Cup.

Respective performances of the teams in the lead up to this match have been patchy. Leinster have stuttered a bit in the league, but were undoubtedly missing the backs who had gone to the World Cup. Last Saturday's performance against the Tigers will have encouraged many who wondered whether Leinster's defence would stand up this season.

Toulouse have gone well in the Top 14 beating Dax away and posting an impressive bonus point win against Stade Français but struggled in defeating Edinburgh in their Heineken Cup opener in Murrayfield. Had Chris Paterson been still in an Edinburgh shirt to kick instead of David Blair Toulouse may not have escaped with 4 points.

Toulouse will be hurting, both from an ineffectual performance against Edinburgh and that defeat on their own doorstep 18 months ago and if they play to their undoubted potential will make life very difficult for Leinster. Still Leinster's hopes were written off last time round and although this time around the setting is different; let's hope the result is not.

by Sarah Lennon, © 2007-11-15

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