Tuesday 15 January 2019

Conan wary of threat from 'capable' rivals

Jack Conan
Jack Conan

Ryan Corry

For Leinster No 8 Jack Conan and many more, tomorrow's clash with Toulouse at the RDS Arena is the defining game of their season.

Defeat to the dynamic French outfit in the second round of the pool back in October fired the once great Toulouse to the top of the pool where they've continued to exhibit the kind of rugby that led them to glory in the past.

Tomorrow represents a chance for either side to take control of the pool and put themselves in the best position possible for the knockout phase.

"It's a great opportunity to right that wrong (loss in October) and put ourselves back in pole position and the driving seat of the group," says Conan.

"It's something we've all had in the back of our minds since that day. In saying that, there was obviously so much to come before it - the home and away against Bath and then the interpros so it's been moulding in the back of everyone's head but it's come to the forefront now and it's time to get a lot of work done this week and prep as well as we can."

That October visit to the south of France ended in a losing bonus-point defeat for Leinster, Maxime Medard's second try of the day clinching the points for Toulouse and ending Leinster's 10-match unbeaten streak in the Champions Cup.

Despite that turnover, Conan and Leinster have set up to address this closing brace of fixtures with the same mentality as any other.

"Every game last year we went into thinking, 'We can't lose this', so I don't think too much has changed in that regard.

"Obviously we have put ourselves under an increased amount of pressure because we lost away.

"We're not in control of the group like we were last year but when anyone comes to the RDS, we want to be at our best and make sure that we put on a good show and we're getting at least the win."

Conan is expected to line out at the back of the Leinster scrum which will put him up against Jerome Kaino, the 35-year-old All Black who has looked ageless this year.

Kaino missed the reverse fixture meaning Toulouse will have added physicality and strength this time around; it will create one of many intriguing individual battles around the RDS turf.

"He's a very physical back-row and someone I've admired for a long time as a No 8 or when he was at six for the All Blacks.

"It's too easy to think 'stereotypical French team, really good at home, not great on the road' but I think they've shown in the last few weeks how capable they are no matter where they are.

"We've spoken about it and we think they're a better side now than they were when we played them and they got the victory on that day so we're under no illusions how difficult it's going to be when they come to the RDS on Saturday."

Irish Independent

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