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Wednesday 16 April, 2014

Brent Pope’s View: Leinster vs Castres Olympique

18 Oct 2013 at 5:42 pm

Rob Kearney

Rob Kearney

With 11 tackles and more carries than any other player, coupled with scoring the match winning try, dynamic Leinster flanker Sean O’Brien certainly deserved many of the plaudits following Leinster’s impressive away win against the Ospreys last weekend, but it was the Heineken Cup debut of 20 year old Barnhall graduate Martin Moore that changed the momentum of the game most significantly?.

With Leinster already fairly low on quality tight head props after Mike Ross, think how Moore must have felt just minutes before being asked to lock horns against an Ospreys front row that contained some of the most experienced, snarly and renowned props in the world?

Worse still, to make your debut just metres from your own goal line at a crucial period in the match. With adrenaline coursing through his veins, not only did Moore stand up to the challenge, but he got under Welsh international loose-head prop Duncan Jones, popped the Welshman up and won the ensuring scrum penalty that allowed an under pressure Leinster to softly clear their lines.

It was Boy’s Own Annual stuff, and just as worthy as being hailed the “defining moment of the match” as, say, Jamie Heaslips sleight of hand and O’Brien’s muscular finish.

Moore is still callow has a lot to learn yet about the dark arts of scrumming , but he has the raw ingredients of size and power, in an position where apart from veteran Mike Ross and Cian Healy Ireland has struggled to produce front rowers of real pedigree over the years. The emergence of the likes of Moore, McGrath, Kilcoyne and Archer to name but a few will no doubt please new Irish Coach Joe Schmidt. Let us hope that unlike other generations of Irish props, these promising young slabs of Irish beef can get the best scrum tutelage possible over the next couple of years so that Irish rugby does not have to go shopping abroad for its future scrummagers.

There is a saying in New Zealand rugby, that to be successful you “don’t only have to learn from your own mistakes, but you must also learn from others”? Last week Munster paid the price for being complacent and taking the opposition for granted. Leinster will know full well that last year’s French Top 14 Champions Castres, despite having one of the worst away records in Europe and lying in the bottom half of their league, still present a formidable banana skin challenge.

It is not rocket science to suggest how this Heineken Cup works. In a group stage as tight as Leinster’s you win all your home games, then pick off a couple of away wins usually after Christmas when some teams, often those from France, deem themselves to have little chance of qualification and lose interest. Leinster can thank their stout defence, outhalf Jimmy Gopperth’s accurate boot and a moment of genius from captain Jamie Heaslip to win against an Ospreys team that had a hex on the Blues.

Despite the win, and as in Thomond Park a week previous, Leinster still had problems in making clean line breaks through their backline, and it seemed at times as if the backs had little space, and as a result, had to try and bludgeon their way through the Ospreys attack, rather than use effective lines of running and offloads. As this competition goes on Leinster is still is a team that needs to score tries.

At least Sean O’Brien did manage to find some quick ball and space and as a result was able to break the Ospreys gain line, it is simple fact but when the likes of O’Brien and Sean Cronin, who was not far behind O Brien as the “man of the match”, manage to do that Leinster invariably win.

So what of Castre? Like a lot of French teams in this competition Castre are a hard team to read, they have real pedigree as French Domestic Champions, but their record this season and more significantly their away record in Europe is poor. So one must still ask the same old acorn of just “How interested are Castre is in winning this competition, and what sort of team will they field”.

I suspect the game will go like very much this, and yes I may be courting danger? After a morale boosting home win against Northampton, thanks mainly to an intercept try and one of the best attacking lineouts in the pool where Uruguay born lock Ortega was outstanding, I suspect that Castre will throw everything at Leinster for 40 minutes and see where they are on the scoreboard at halftime.

Home teams need to start the game well and sow the seeds of doubt into the travelling opposition, more so when the visitors are French and not used to winning away. To win this match, Leinster will obviously look to continue to clean out rucks more effectively, ensure quick ball and then as they did last weekend, use the likes of O’Brien, Cronin and McLaughlin to punch holes out wide. I predict Leinster to continue their winning ways.

Brent Popes Heineken Cup best XV from last weekend.

15 Hook Perpignan

14 Sivivatu Clermont

13 Mermoz Toulon

12 Williams Scarlets

11 Vanikolo

10 Giteau Toulon

9 Laidlaw Edinburgh

8 Ewers Exeter

7 O’Brien Leinster

6 Shingler Scarlets

5 Ortega Castres

4 Botha (Bacches) Toulon

2 Tui Exeter

2 Cronin Leinster

1 Healy Leinster

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Brent Pope (have 12 posts in total)