Monday 19 March 2018

We can beat Toulon, insists McQuilkin

Leinster defence coach Kurt McQuilkin says Leinster are looking forward to the challenge of facing Toulon
Leinster defence coach Kurt McQuilkin says Leinster are looking forward to the challenge of facing Toulon
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

If Leinster were to draw up a list of places to go to keep their Champions Cup hopes alive, you would find the Stade Felix Mayol at the very bottom but nevertheless, defence coach Kurt McQuilkin is confident of his side's chances.

Leinster took the French galacticos to extra-time in last season's semi-final but they arguably face an even bigger challenge on Sunday as they look to salvage their European campaign.

The postponement of last weekend's Pro12 game against Glasgow threw a spanner in the works but McQuilkin believes that it may well work in Leinster's favour.

"It's weird really, we're all geared up to play a game on the weekend and then due to what happened with the weather we couldn't play," he said.

"From one point of view we've come into it pretty fresh, everyone's raring to go really. It would have been nice to have a game to build into it but it wasn't meant to be."

The Leinster players will need no introduction to Toulon's wealth of talents, especially considering the amount of work they will have done on a lot of their players at international level.

Ireland faced the likes of Guilhem Guirado, Sébastien Tillous-Borde, Mathieu Bastareaud and Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe at the World Cup and they will have featured heavily in Joe Schmidt's analysis.

"It does help," McQuilkin said. "It's a case that they know them inside and out through Joe's regime and the Irish regime.

"It is a big help, it gives us a jumpstart in to reviewing them as a unit and as individuals.

"They're doing well, they gave Clermont a thumping (away from home, the weekend before last) and gave Agen a going over at the weekend, too. They're a team of galacticos aren't they?

"You can go through and pick a couple of combinations that would be competitive at any level, now (Ma'a) Nonu has come into it and they're always tough over there. It'll be a tough ask.

"They've lost a few, Bakkies Botha, Ali Williams from their pack, but they're pretty good with (Samu) Manoa and (Mamuka) Gorgodze, but at that stage of the season last year Leinster shut them down particularly well.

"The biggest thing watching from afar as a spectator was the line-speed from the previous time they played them in the European Cup, they shut them down and didn't them time and space, which put Leinster in good stead for that match."

Nonu is a player that McQuilkin watched closely coming through the ranks in New Zealand and he is under no illusions as to how big a threat the All Black centurion poses to Leinster's defence.

"I saw him coming through as a young guy through the system, he really burst onto the scene as a winger for the Hurricanes in that (Tana) Umaga era," he recalled.

"He's an outstanding footballer, really threatening and taking it to your face and to the line with a good set of skills around him. He'll be a handful for us on the weekend."

There has been a lot of pessimism surrounding Leinster's chances in the south of France but within the squad, confidence is beginning to build once again, especially after the inter-provincial victory over Ulster two weeks ago.

"Internally, we're looking forward to the challenge, there's probably not a lot of optimism outside of our camp; we know what's at stake and it's a case of getting out there and trying to do the business," said McQuilkin.

Irish Independent

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