A few days before the semi-final at the top between the two most successful clubs in Europe, Leinster and Toulouse, the Irish press begins to analyze this long-awaited meeting. If there is no doubt that Stade Toulousain will be a real threat to the Irish at Aviva Stadium, a lot of hopes are pinned on the men of Léo Cullen. Some even see this team returning to its 2018 level when it lifted the European Cup in Bilbao.
CHAMPIONS CUP. In 2019, Leinster cooked Toulouse slowly in its Dublin lair
Leinster with the “big boys” of Europe
Leinster had broken their teeth against their direct competitors in the European Cup in recent seasons. The examples of La Rochelle last year and Saracens in 2019 and 2020 showed the shortcomings of Jonathan Sexton’s teammates against strong teams. But the quarter-final victory in Leicester gave grounds for serious hopes. As the Irish Examiner explains: “Victory in the quarter-finals is an ideal preparation before the match against Toulouse. In general, Leinster does not have the possibility of making high-level matches with the United Rugby Championship as regularly as Toulouse in the Top 14“. The victory against the leaders of the English championship reassured the editorial staff who see this as a sign that the Blues of Ireland can go to the end of the competition. The last time Leinster played against such a strong team , it was against La Rochelle in the semi-finals, a defeat close to the final which showed the gap in level still with the top European level.
The Irish Times notes in its editorial that the real element that has made Leinster’s game progress is New Zealand-born scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park. The newspaper recalled in particular that in 2018, during the final against the Llanelli Scarlets, the tenure of Gibson-Park had caused a lot of ink to flow. Some even said that he had no place in the workforce. But today, with a potential Lions tour at the end of the season, he would start as a starter during testing. An evolution of status where we have seen the player improve in his passing and his speed of play. In the same way that Ireland has experienced a revolution in recent months, Leinster is also following this same trajectory. James Lowe, the winger also of New Zealand origin, even comes forward by saying that Park has a better pass than Antoine Dupont, and that the duel between the two will be worth a look at the Aviva.
ANALYSIS. How Jamison Gibson-Park relegated Murray to the bench and transformed the Irish game
Irish efficiency and iron defense
In the Irish Independent, the former international winger returned to the meeting between Leicester and his former club. He explained in particular that the Dubliners had shown themselves and had excelled in their efficiency at the start of the meeting by stifling Leicester. Same impression in the second where despite the possession and the territory largely in favor of the English, the latter came up against a compact wall, almost impassable and well in place. Leinster thus showed its ability to resist physically against a big team, which is more outside. The composure of the Irish, moreover, has been pointed out where they tend to falter in games at stake as could be the case recently.
Toulouse can break Irish hearts… but will struggle
If Toulouse is scary, always for the Independent, with in particular its “ability to come out of stocks out of nowhere“, his burst of energy against Munster reassures observers. Gordon D’Arcy, former teammate of Brian O’Driscoll, for the Irish Times, analyzes that “Leinster can take advantage of Munster’s performance which pushed Toulouse on penaltiesA godsend for the Irish who will not fail to put the rhythm during the meeting, thanks to Jamison Gibson-Park in particular, custodian of the speed of the game of his team.
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