Friday 21 October 2016

Leinster-Toulon combined XV: No place for Sean O'Brien, Ian Madigan or Juan Smith

Published 16/04/2015 | 15:14

Mathieu Bastareaud of Toulon charges upfield during the Heineken Cup quarter final last year
Mathieu Bastareaud of Toulon charges upfield during the Heineken Cup quarter final last year

This is a XV that you would bring to the World Cup later this year without an ounce of fear. It's strength is best illustrated by the names omitted.

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Irish internationals Sean O'Brien, Devin Toner and Ian Madigan miss out, while Toulon stars Juan Smith, Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, Chris Masoe and Leigh Halfpenny fail to make the grade.

15. Rob Kearney (Leinster)

At international level it's an even split but Leigh Halfpenny has never recreated his Welsh form on French soil. Kearney has grown into a big leader in the Leinster back division.


14. Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster)

Since his return to the Blue jersey and in his appearance against Scotland, Fitzgerald has showed that he is not a million miles away from finding his best form. Lightning feet and a brilliant step off both feet.


13. Mathieu Bastareaud (Toulon)

A wrecking ball in attack and Leinster will not have forgotten the damage he inflicted at the breakdown in their Heineken Cup semi-final last season.


12. Matt Giteau (Toulon)

The Top 14 player of the year last year has continued his form into this season. Didn't start against Wasps but Maxime Mermoz's injury means he's a guarantee at inside centre.


11. Drew Mitchell (Toulon)

Jimmy Gopperth won't want to kick to kick to Toulon's back three and Mitchell in particular. Another foreigner who has flourished at the Stade Felix Mayol.


10. Frédéric Michalak (Toulon)

The enigmatic Frenchman is capable of the sublime and the ludicrous. Hopefully he has one of his off days or Matt O'Connor's men could suffer a long afternoon.


9. Sébastien Tillous-Borde (Toulon)

Started for Les Bleus in Twickenham and helped orchestrate a brilliant offensive effort. Dangerous around the fringes.


8. Jamie Heaslip (Leinster)

Leinster's Mr. Dependable, Heaslip has a huge task ahead of him in helping eclipse the enormous Toulon pack. One of the best footballing brains in the Northern Hemisphere.


7. Steffon Armitage (Toulon)

Bullied Leinster last year in the last eight, stymied the province with turnover after turnover. The most destructive openside in European club rugby.


6. Mamuka Gorgodze (Toulon)

The Georgian is quite simply an animal. His giant frame fails to encapsualte the strength this man from Eastern Europe possesses. Leinster will need to chop him low, early and often.


5. Ali Williams (Toulon)

The World Cup-winning All Black has a found a new lease of life in the sunny south of France. Flirts with conceding penalties but rarely does. Bundles of experience.


4. Bakkies Botha (Toulon)

He's retired from international rugby to focus solely on his responsibilities with Toulon. Another World Cup winner and you can't buy that experience... oh wait.


3. Carl Hayman (Toulon)

His battle with Healy will be pivotal. One of the best scrummagers in the game but didn't enjoy his meeting with the Irish prop 12 months ago.


2. Sean Cronin (Leinster)

Cronin's speed and mobility could prove crucial against an ageing pack and he'll be needed as a ball carrier to take the pressure of Healy and O'Brien.

Sean Cronin.jpg  

1. Cian Healy (Leinster)

Healy posed problems in the scrum last season against Toulon and is nearing 100pc readiness. Expect fireworks when he gets the ball in his hands.


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