Thursday 22 February 2018

Bitter Fritz has taste for sweet revenge

David Kelly

David Kelly

Toulouse centre Florian Fritz says his side will be gunning for revenge in this Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final against Leinster as they seek to erase the memory of the stunning 41-35 quarter-final reverse at Le Stadium in 2006.

"We were humiliated in front of our own audience and on our home ground so there will be a small taste of revenge," said the French international.

Speaking at the team's base ahead of the weekend's opening semi-final, legendary coach Guy Noves, who has overseen three Heineken Cup triumphs and a Top 14/European double in 1996, insists that Leinster are a team that "never dies".

"They are not European champions by choice," he said. "They have a great experience at this level. They were able to rest a lot of players last week, which will be an important part of their preparation.

"It is a team we know are capable of raising their game to blow up the enemy, even in those awkward moments when it is suffering."

Leinster certainly suffered in the previous round against Clermont, when they struggled to cope with what forwards coach Jono Gibbes claimed was the biggest side his side have faced in competitive action this season.

Toulouse, he insists, will be an even bigger threat.

"We perhaps got caught watching Clermont a little bit and in letting them play too much, it hurt us," said Gibbes. "We've taken that experience on and learned from it. We'll face the same thing again with Toulouse, a well-drilled big side who are competent in the set-piece.

"One of the problems was our body height against Clermont. We sat back on our heels, we got high and we watched. The thing we've tried to work on is our height, going forward, attacking and not watching.

"That's the best way to counter them. If we sit back and watch again, they can do a lot of damage again. They're big, they've a good scrum and a well-resourced line-out.

"The positive that I can take is the Clermont game and coming up against their pack and doing alright by the end of it. I mean, we just don't play big teams like that in the Magners.

"I thought for the most part we scrummed well against Clermont. We definitely have the tools to deal with the Toulouse scrum.

"It's about focusing on the right things, minimising errors -- individual and unit errors -- and attacking. It's about playing our game and scrumming the way we want to as a part of that. We know what we're up against."

And Gibbes has also pointed to the not insignificant threat around the fringes of former All Black international Byron Kelleher. As with their overall approach, the key for Leinster will rely on a proactive, rather than reactive, approach.

"We certainly talked about Byron on Monday and the threat that he brings," Gibbes reported. "He's the perfect kind of No 9 for Toulouse and the way they want to play. He's a bit of a handful.

"He's not one of the old school No 9s you could throw around a little bit; he can give it back as well. We know we're facing a world-class No 9 who's physical, so we need to be sharp around the ruck and not get caught watching too much."

Irish Independent

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