Monday 18 December 2017

White demanding response from his Montpellier players

Montpellier’s head coach Jake White. Photo: Getty
Montpellier’s head coach Jake White. Photo: Getty
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Leinster will travel to France on Sunday fully expecting a backlash from a Montpellier side who threw away a lead against Northampton in the dying stages last weekend to get their Champions Cup campaign off a bitterly disappointing start.

The home supporters will demand a reaction at the Altrad Stadium as Montpellier look to bounce back.

It had been a decent start to the season as five wins from their eight league games has Montpellier sitting in third position in the Top 14, just four points off top spot. Last week's defeat in Europe has left a sour taste, however.

Montpellier enjoyed huge success in Europe last year, albeit in the Challenge Cup. Having won the secondary competition, expectations were high, but Francois Steyn's admission that his side are merely taking learnings back to the Top 14 would suggest that their priorities lie elsewhere.

Jake White's reign will come to an end at the conclusion of the season, with Vern Cotter already lined up to replace the South African World Cup winner.

Desperate

The locals in the south of France have never fully warmed to White but he will be desperate to end his stay with silverware, be it in Europe or domestically.

"I hope the players learn from this experience and bounce back against Leinster next weekend," White said after last weekend's last-gasp defeat.

"We have to prepare properly for next week so this loss doesn't hurt as much.

"We are really looking forward to playing Northampton in the last round. We are really looking forward to it, and I mean that. The players are desperate to face them again and that's a good sign."

White, however, is hopeful that his side can draw inspiration from the fact that they lost their opening game in last season's Challenge Cup and ended up winning the competition.

Repeating the trick in the Champions Cup is a different proposition and he will be only too aware that another defeat to Leinster on Sunday would all but end their hopes of emerging from the pool.

"That game (Northampton) just shows how fine the margins are in professional sport," White said.

"We had two chances at the end to win it but we've ended up losing the game. It's disappointing, but if you put it into perspective, this club is only 30 years old and is still building.

History

"Northampton has a massive amount of history and the last time we were here we were beaten by 50 points, but that doesn't make things better.

"We thought we had done enough after coming back from 10 points down to lead with five minutes to go. We gave two penalties away in the last 90 seconds, which wasn't good, but we get to play them again.

"Last year we lost our first game to Harlequins and went on to win the competition. Stranger things have happened in sport."

Montpellier have plenty of South African experience in their squad and they will pose a much greater threat than Castres did at the RDS last Saturday.

As well as Steyn, Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis are on the French side's books.

As White put it, stranger things have indeed happened in sport but they face an in-form Leinster side who will know that a win would all but end Montpellier's interest in Europe this season.

Irish Independent

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