Saturday 24 March 2018

Shane Horgan: Leinster can prevail if they starve Toulon of possession

Luke Fitzgerald in action against Toulon in last year's Champions Cup semi-final
Luke Fitzgerald in action against Toulon in last year's Champions Cup semi-final

Darragh Sullivan

Former Leinster rugby player Shane Horgan expects French kingpins Toulon to emerge victorious in a pivotal Pool 5 clash at the Stade Mayol but believes Leinster have an opportunity to cause an upset.

Sunday could prove be a pivotal game in what has been a disappointing season thus far and travel to the south of France knowing only a win will do if they are to entertain any thoughts of progressing to the knockout stages of the Champions Cup.

Horgan concedes that Leinster will only win if they play to their full potential and starve their French counterparts of possession and territory.

“If Toulon play to their potential they will win. They have more talent than Leinster at the moment," he said.

The caveat is that the Top 14 giants, despite the huge wealth of resources to draw from, don't always bring their 'A' game. More often than not, it isn't required.

"Toulon didn't play that well last year in the semi-final and gave opportunities to Leinster. They don't always hit their straps and can be disorganised.

"They rarely play to their full potential, but when they do they are deadly."

Leo Cullen’s men go into this game as overwhelming underdogs as they have underperformed for a vast majority of the season.

With the likes of Mathieu Bastareaud, Matt Giteau, Maxime Mermoz, Ma'a Nonu on the Toulon roster, Horgan feels the midfield battle will be crucial.

“There’s no continuity in the Leinster selection at centre. This is for a number of reasons such as injuries, big players like Brian O Driscoll and Gordon Darcy recently retiring and the Rugby World Cup”.

According to his former team-mate, Luke Fitzgerald could exert a huge influence over proceedings at either 12 or 13.

“I would like to see him play at centre. He is genuinely world class."

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