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Castres Olympique vs Leinster Rugby
European Champions Cup Pool 4 Round 6
Stade Pierre Antoine, Castres,
Friday, 20th December 2017, 19:45

Television: Live: Sky Sports

We're back, baby!!!

The question was posed here last week about how much we could trust Leinster's apparent progress this season, but we got a resounding answer. Leinster were awesome and showed they're ready to compete at the top table again after a season as also rans. Even though Francois Steyn deserved it for his malicious attempt to take Johnny Sexton out of the game, it was a shame the red card happened. It put a little asterisk over the win as it was presented as "well, it was against 14 men, what do you expect?". However, Leinster were already well in charge by the time the sending off happened.

Leo Cullen and all his coaching staff deserve massive credit for their tactics. They learned from the away game and simply ran the legs off Montpellier's big men. The sight of Nemani Nadolo, who had terrorized Leinster in the first fixture, blowing hard at a break in play after only fifteen minutes was instructive. Leinster's gameplan was ambitious but crucially now they had the pace and skills to pull it off. Once Leinster got their fourth try, Montpellier gave up the ghost and they were embarrassing by the end. Now Leinster need to finish off the job by beating Castres and securing a home quarter-final.

Castres have little enough to play for after they lost away to Northampton last week. Mathematically they may still have a chance, but only if a bewildering amount of results go their way. Castres take on Montpellier again next week (by a curious quirk of the fixtures list, they also played them before their first match in Europe), and it would be understandable if Castres paid more attention to that game. Castres are in sixth place in the Top14 and will be looking to solidify that play-off spot. However, Castres always seem to be a different team at home and they've only lost once there this season. Though Leinster have won on their last two visits to the Stade Pierre Antoine, they were far from easy games.

Castres have picked a side showing nine changes to the team that started last week. The only survivors from last week are Afusipa Taumoepeau, David Smith and Julien Dumora in the backs and Victor Moreaux, Yannick Caballero and Alexandre Bias in the pack. It's still far from a poor team though and the likes of Brice Mach, Daniel Kotze and the old war-dog Rodrigo Capo Ortega will at least ensure a contest in the tight five.

Leinster have made just three changes to the team that started last weekend. One is enforced as Ross Molony comes in for the suspended Hayden Triggs and the other two are in the front row as Cian Healy and Richardt Strauss are rotated in.

Castres will come out fighting so Leinster just need to be calm and professional and keep them at bay long enough for them to lose interest in the second half. If they can do that, they should win comfortably enough, as long as they take nothing for granted.

Team Lineups

Castres Olympique

Leinster Rugby
Teams Pierre Berard 15 Isa Nacewa (C)
Julien Caminati 14 Adam Byrne
Afusipa Taumoepeau 13 Garry Ringrose
Florian Vialelle 12 Robbie Henshaw
David Smith 11 Rory O'Loughlin
Julien Dumora 10 Johnny Sexton
Antoine Dupont 9 Luke McGrath

Antoine Tichit 1 Cian Healy
Brice Mach 2 Richardt Strauss
Daniel Kotze 3 Tadhg Furlong
Victor Moreaux 4 Ross Molony
Rodrigo Capo Ortega 5 Devin Toner
Yannick Caballero 6 Jack Conan
Alexandre Bias 7 Josh van der Flier
Steve Mafi 8 Jamie Heaslip

Replacements Jody Jenneker 16 James Tracy
Mihaita Lazar 17 Jack McGrath
Damien Tussac 18 Michael Bent
Loic Jacquet 19 Mike McCarthy
Anthony Jelonch 20
Dan Leavy
Julien Seron 21 Jamison Gibson-Park
Benjamin Urdapilleta 22 Ross Byrne
Thomas Combezou 23 Rob Kearney

Not Considered
Due to Injury

Jordi Murphy,
James Ryan,
Mike Ross,
Ian Fitzpatrick,
Fergus McFadden,
Dave Kearney,
Joey Carbery,
Sean Cronin,
Sean O'Brien,
Rhys Ruddock
Officials Referee: Greg Garner (England),
Assistant Referees: Tom Foley (England), Paul Dix (England),
TMO: David Rose (England),
Citing Commissioner: Steve Savage (England)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2017-01-19