Wednesday 17 January 2018

Jennings sets sights on taming Chabal to put Racing on the back foot

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Like most top-level sportsmen, Shane Jennings isn't much of a spectator so the Leinster openside endured a difficult evening as he watched Leinster beat Munster on Saturday.

The ex-Leicester man was left out of Joe Schmidt's squad as a precaution ahead of this weekend's Heineken Cup opener, no doubt with the challenge of stopping Sebastien Chabal in mind.

Big-spending Racing Metro have plenty of strings to their bow, but it is the flowing-locked man mountain who looms largest for Leinster.

Munster's battles with Chabal's former club, Sale Sharks, always centred around their ability to deal with the French talisman, and Jennings is relishing facing the charismatic No 8.

But while he admits Chabal is one in particular to watch, Jennings says Leinster must keep an eye on the rest of a pack that includes French lock Lionel Nallet, Springbok Jacques Cronje and Italian prop Andrea Lo Cicero.

"Of course," he said. "Whether he plays in the (second) row or the back row I don't know, but he's a pretty charismatic guy and he is a serious leader for them, so we're going to have to keep our eye on him. But, unfortunately, there's a lot of players around that pack as well who are just as good as him, so whatever pack they play they're big, big men. If he plays back-row then their combinations at second row are pretty impressive as well.

"It's going to be a good challenge; these are the games we want and it's good getting back to the RDS and having a fellah like that and a good big team from France coming over."

Although he wasn't able to participate, Jennings was delighted with Leinster's performance in beating Munster at the Aviva Stadium, and he believes it will stand them in good stead.

And given that their pool looks the most daunting of all the pools, the stand-in captain knows the importance of a good start for the 2009 champions.

"We played very, very well (against Munster) and it was good to see because we needed it," he admitted.

Confidence

"We need to carry that in now and get a bit of confidence from that and take the good things that we did in the game because we're playing against a very, very good team.

"We're going to have to do a lot of good work, get a good week's training, get some good prep on them as they are a very big, very physical team that are flying in the Top 14 at the moment. It's a big week and we're looking forward to it.

"They're strong, very strong. Apart from the French teams, you've got Saracens in the group who are a massive club and they've recruited really well and they've a good squad over there.

"I think the obvious big name is Clermont, but people realise how good Racing and Sarries are, so we've really got to concentrate on this weekend, hopefully put in a good performance and if we can do that then we can gain some momentum."

Irish Independent

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