Monday 18 December 2017

Gibbes insists Blues pack have learned their harsh French lesson

David Kelly

David Kelly

Leinster are fully expecting European champions Toulouse to once again target the scrum after destructing the Irish side in that department at the same stage of the competition last season.

However, since then Mike Ross has firmly anchored himself in Leinster's scrum and in turn solidified the Irish eight, who have been bolstered by some one-to-one tuition from Kiwi scrum guru Greg Feek.

Their former weakness should now be a strength.

Meanwhile, Toulouse have also seen their star prop, Benoit Lecouls, succumb to a potentially career-ending neck injury and one suspects that there will be no coverage of a sombre, sidelined Cian Healy to echo last season's humiliation.

"Well, they're French!" states forwards coach Jono Gibbes when pressed as to whether Toulouse will once more target the set-piece.

"They measure things by their scrum. We played Clermont, they had a cut at us; we played Racing, and they had a cut at us.

"I think they are the big teams in France, and I know Toulouse will have a sniff around there for sure. But that's about them. What we can control is us and getting our stuff right and doing what we are focused on.


"A lot of little things have helped improve the pack. We've got a lot of the same personnel but Joe (Schmidt) has probably brought in a focus on different aspects. Collectively, the players adapted to that and they have improved. It's the same personnel but with different focus points."

Healy is keenly aware of the benefits bestowed by the home advantage so superbly secured during the impressive qualifying campaign.

"It is great to be going back to the Aviva, we are turning it into a type of fortress, and the support we get there from the Leinster fans is unbelievable," Healy said.

"They are there for us every game, big or small, and it will be great to have them behind us for the semi-final.

"The semi-final is an enormous game for us. We certainly know Toulouse are very strong up front, are a well-drilled side and have quality throughout but we will focus on what we can and must do and not on what they can do.

"We are playing well and putting a few things together and, while there are also a few things to work on, we feel we are going in the right direction under Joe, who is certainly getting the best out of the players."

Leinster are not perfect, admits Gibbes. "Every team has weaknesses, mate," confirms Gibbes. Much less than ever before, one suspects.

Irish Independent

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