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Jimmy's got an edge on Ian


Leinster's Jimmy Gopperth. Picture credit: Piarasa Madheach / SPORTSFILE

Leinster's Jimmy Gopperth. Picture credit: Piarasa Madheach / SPORTSFILE

Leinster's Jimmy Gopperth. Picture credit: Piarasa Madheach / SPORTSFILE

IT couldn't have gone much better for Jimmy Gopperth at The Sportsground.

Leinster struggled to contain Connacht's physicality and to impose their game plan on their Western neighbours as Ian Madigan understandably struggled to control territory on a difficult evening.

Cue the introduction of Gopperth. Cue two penalties to move Leinster in front. Cue a snipe and offload for Gordon D'Arcy's decisive try.

It may just have been enough to tip the balance of selection in favour of Gopperth for what is sure to be a red-hot reception from Castres Olympique in the Heineken Cup at Stade Pierre Antoine on Sunday.

Ever 'The Company Man', Gopperth was not about to beat his chest and plea for outright control over the ownership of the number ten jersey. "It's always nice as a goal-kicker to kick your goals when they're needed. It was a tight match and, thankfully, they went over and we got across the line," he said.

The rotation policy adopted by Matt O'Connor has been there from the start, in terms of how the coach views the contest and the number of games and minutes played.


Gopperth has played 16 times, starting as many as he has been introduced to, for 735 minutes. Madigan has played 12 and started nine for 757 minutes.

The evidence supports the supposition that O'Connor takes an Eddie O'Sullivan 'horses-for-courses' opinion on which should have the next start.

Does Gopperth feel it is a tight call? "We'd like to think so. Mads and I will push each other every day," he answered.

"It can only be beneficial for the team for it to be like that. It keeps us on our toes as well because as a player it's always good to have competition."

The weight of evidence suggests a dour, low-scoring encounter in France on Sunday. Castres have leaked just five tries at home this season.

Leinster have scored one try in their last three matches at home to Northampton in Europe and away to Edinburgh and Connacht in the PRO12 League.

Is it a source of concern to Gopperth? "No, not really. It's a bit disappointing but the conditions we've been playing in for the past few weeks haven't been great," he said.

"And the defences we've been against too. Connacht were passionate and they were always going to be. They went hammer and tongs at us and are a tough team to break down.

"In saying that, we did leave a lot of opportunities out there looking back at the review. We've got to make sure we're up for it this week and when we get those opportunities we really have to nail them.


"If you go back to the Northampton game and the Edinburgh one, we could have won those games in the last minute when we were in the killer zone, the red zone, but we didn't put the points on the table.

"It's just about being composed and being a bit more patient in those areas and just getting the little basics right. Then, hopefully we can get enough space to finish them off."

Whether Gopperth or Madigan gets first crack at Castres is unknown. What is certain is that Leinster are going to have to match Castres physically.

This will become all the more manageable if they can dictate the game, control the tempo and play the game in enemy territory.

"It's about doing the basics well, that's all myself and Mads have to do.

"We can't be going backwards and be thinking we have to play down the other end. We have to do things on the front foot and keep the tempo of the game going."