Tuesday 20 February 2018

Johnny Sexton confident Leinster can topple 'beatable' Toulon

Jonathan Sexton mantains that, although Toulon may be one of the best sides out there, they are far from unbeatable
Jonathan Sexton mantains that, although Toulon may be one of the best sides out there, they are far from unbeatable
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Like most players who have visited the Stade Felix Mayol, Johnny Sexton doesn't have particularly fond memories of the intimidating venue just off the marina in Toulon.

When he visited the Cote d'Azur with Racing 92 in 2013, they ran the gauntlet of the local crowds by going in the intimidating front entrance but came out on the end of a 41-14 defeat that left them in no doubt of the difficulties of facing the now three-time European champions in their back-yard.

Yet, unlike his Leinster team-mates, Sexton does have experience of beating Bernard Laporte's side in recent years and says that, while they are the best team out there, they are far from unbeatable.

And he believes that there have been signs of life in the under-performing Blues in recent weeks that are pointing to a performance.


"It's as much about stopping their strengths as exposing them," he explained at last night's Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Cup draw on College Green.

"They're very strong at a lot of things. At the breakdown, they've got numerous guys like (Duane) Vermeulen and (Steffon) Armitage and in the backs (Mathieu) Bastareaud and even guys in the wide channels like (Bryan) Habana, who's very good over the ball.

"That will be something we will put a lot of emphasis on. But Wasps found a few (weaknesses). They are beatable. They've been beaten lots of times.

"They're non three-in-a-row European champions for nothing. They're outstanding. We're going to have to be on top of our game"

Leinster have their backs to the wall after defeats to Wasps and Bath, but got back to winning ways in the Guinness Pro12 when they beat Ulster at the RDS before last Saturday's clash with Glasgow was cancelled due to the weather.

Although he was being rested for that game, Sexton would have preferred if his team-mates had gotten a run-out in order to build on the progress made in the win over Ulster in which Leinster failed to take the majority of their chances. Against Toulon they will have to be ruthless.

"We let ourselves down against Wasps in lots of areas. We were a hell of a lot better against Bath," he explained. "We let ourselves down in certain areas and that cost us the game but in terms of turning up on the day I think we did that. Against Ulster, we were probably better again. Hopefully, we're still building.

"Sometimes when you have a bad run of performances or results you can get big news out of anything, but if we start taking our chances, everything will be fine. There were a few against Wasps and it was the same story against Ulster, we created I thought quite a lot.

"Leinster teams of old, we would have finished them. One or two tries early in the game just changes the complexion of the game because the other team has to chase.

"There are lots of different things to take into consideration but I'm hoping we're still building and we're going to see a better performance."

Leinster appear unlikely to have Sean O'Brien on board for the trip to Toulon as he recovers from an inner ear issue he has struggled with since coming off concussed against Wasps.

Irish Independent

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