Heineken Cup Touchlines
Narrow defeat a warning for Blues' current crop
Castres 18 Leinster 15,
December 12, 2008
A number of Leinster players may get a familiar feeling as they return to the Stade Pierre Antoine -- and it won't be a good one.
The 2008/9 season is one fondly remembered as the province's breakthrough European year when Michael Cheika finally guided them out of perennial underachievement as they were transformed into the continent's dominant force.
But, the season didn't go without its hitches and it came closest to going off the rails in Castres during the December back-to-back clashes on a day where their application let them down.
Girvan Dempsey and Jonathan Sexton scored tries, but six penalties from the boot of Anthony Lagardere did the damage as the French side ran out 18-15 winners to open up the pool.
Leinster would lose to Wasps in round five, before managing to escape the pool with a win over Edinburgh on the final weekend and their early struggles were long forgotten as they regrouped to beat Harlequins, Munster and Leicester to claim the crown.
So, if the Irish province are getting ahead of themselves this weekend, the likes of Brian O'Driscoll, Luke Fitzgerald, Rob Kearney, Devin Toner, Shane Jennings and Jamie Heaslip will recall that day in 2008 and preach caution.
CASTRES -- T Bouquie; C Sika, S Kefu, L Mazars, P Christophers; A Lagardere, S Tillous-Borde; G Lensing, A Giorgadze, D Saayman; J Tekori, L Nallet (capt); L Tomiki, C Masoe, F Faure. Reps: M Bonello, L Ducalcon, C Gaston, K Kulemin, T Sanchou, M Bourret.
LEINSTER -- G Dempsey, Simon Keogh, B O'Driscoll, L Fitzgerald, R Kearney; J Sexton, C Whitaker (capt); C Healy, B Jackman, S Wright; D Toner, M O'Kelly; R Elson, S Jennings, J Heaslip. Reps: B Blaney, R McCormack, T Hogan, S O'Brien, C Keane, F Contepomi, I Nacewa.
LEINSTER LOOKING ON THE BRIGHT SIDE
Their fans might be up the walls worrying about the future of star back-rows Jamie Heaslip and Sean O'Brien, but Rob Kearney took to Twitter yesterday to show a lighter side of the transfer tittle-tattle.
His picture of Heaslip receiving some tender, loving care from the Leinster staff came with a caption: "You won't get this sort of treatment in Toulon mate."
Comings and goings are a reality of life in a professional dressing-room and the show must go on. It was good to see the lighter side of life behind the scenes at UCD and the fans seemed to appreciate it with more than 500 people either retweeting or favouriting the effort.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
"Hopefully @SeanOBrien1987 is only going over to Toulon to look at some cattle #RelaxEveryone" @fergmcfadden
HARDMEN KEEPING MANY BALLS IN THE AIR
It's been another week to celebrate the enduring reliability of the rugby hard man.
Julien Bonnaire, the impossibly teak-tough Clermont flanker, played for 40 minutes with a broken arm in last week's defeat to Toulouse.
That's nothing to Paul O'Connell, of course, who completed a Lions test after suffering a similar fracture.
Or, indeed, Banbridge farmer Rory Best, who cleared out a couple of loitering Kiwis in a ruck last November despite lumbering the minor inconvenience of a broken wrist.
Finishing games with concussion is a sign of recklessness in our book, but Wayne Shelford was thankful for being not exactly compos mentis when he left a test match in France minus four teeth. And, as he discovered while getting changed, almost a testicle. Daniel Dubroca had tried to kick the ball and missed ... instead hitting Shelford in the nether regions.
The battle-hardened back-rower just poured water down his shorts and got on with the game before he was later knocked out cold by Jean Pierre Garuet.
"Just another injury that many of us get due to the rigours of the game," reasoned our 'Buck' -- we're not sure if he ever found his teeth.
NUMBER OF THE WEEK
104 The 35,624-capacity Allianz Riviera in Nice will become the 104th venue to stage a Heineken Cup fixture when reigning champions Toulon host Cardiff Blues in a potentially decisive game at the top of Pool 2 this Saturday.