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Forwards point way for Blues

LEINSTER will have to break the trend of the home club winning all of three matches between these two in the Heineken Cup, writes Des Berry.

Castres v Leinster

Stade Pierre-Antoine, Sunday 12.45

(Live Sky Sports 2)


Looking back to last week, the likelihood is that a heavy pitch and even heavier Castres forwards will turn this one into a dogfight. Plain and simple.

Leinster should revert to the template that skittled the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium in round one. They were patient and clinical then.

Matt O'Connor's men will have to withstand a Castres storm in the first quarter and Leinster's tournament high 91pc tackle success rate makes them a mean defence.

O'Connor has chosen Jimmy Gopperth over Ian Madigan and Jordi Murphy over Shane Jennings for what could be the defining Pool 1 encounter.

Where O'Connor could have gone for the game-breaking skills of Madigan at fly-half, he has chosen the control of Gopperth.

Where the experience of Shane Jennings must have been a temptation, he has opted for the relentless aggression of the man of the moment Murphy. Once again, Mike McCarthy and Devin Toner are the preferred choice in the second row, club captain Leo Cullen restricted to bench duty and Jamie Heaslip taking the captain's armband.

The professional era has brought in a new age of death by analysis. But, a glaring statistic is that the French champions have the worst ball retention at the ruck this season.

The 90pc return doesn't sound too shabby. But, they lose one in 10 of their rucks, which can kill momentum and frustrate players. This is where the collective will of the forwards, Gordon D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll at the breakdown will come into play.

LEINSTER: R Kearney; D Kearney, B O'Driscoll, G D'Arcy, L Fitzgerald; J Gopperth, E Reddan; J McGrath, S Cronin, M Ross, D Toner, M McCarthy, K McLaughlin, J Murphy, J Heaslip.

Verdict: Leinster