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Blues likely facing French trip if they seal quarter spot


Jimmy Gopperth. Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Jimmy Gopperth. Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Jimmy Gopperth. Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

LEINSTER scrambled their way to one of those blood-and-guts victories that tests the fibre of a man's being more than it does the talent within each individual.

Their practical reward was one giant step towards the quarter-final, but nothing definitive, as of yet. More than that, the likely scenario is that they will probably have to go to France in April, given how Toulon, Toulouse and Clermont-Auvergne occupy three of the top four slots.

There was a time, not long ago, when Leinster would have folded had they fallen behind 14-0 to a super-charged Castres Olympique in the south of France.

But, a culture has been built on the back of pain and glory. These men don't know how to let go of the Heineken Cup, even when it isn't theirs anymore.

"It wasn't an ideal start," said forwards coach Jono Gibbes.

"The way they were able to gain access was more about our deficiencies rather than them creating a hell of a lot. But, they're a good team, we gave them a little bit and they took those two tries early.

"We just felt if we were able to get a little bit of a foothold with possession, particularly at set-piece, that we may be able to put pressure on them later on. It took quite a long time to do that."

How Leinster had to scramble their way out of the Stade Pierre Antoine with their goals and dreams intact. It all came down to how they steeled themselves.

"I thought the boys' resilience and energy and their commitment to keep getting up and running into these big fellas here was first class," said Gibbes.

Northampton Saints will take Pool 1 right down to the wire thanks to their 29-17 away win against the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium.

Leinster need a losing bonus-point to make the last eight, but a great deal more to land a home quarter-final.

"First of all, we've got to win next week. Of course we want a home quarter," said out-half Jimmy Gopperth. "But, we've just got to make sure we put the points on the board early and win first and let the game take care of itself after that."