Leinster head coach Leo Cullen says his side are raring to go, as they look to topple Toulouse in tomorrow’s Heineken Champions Cup semi-final at the Aviva Stadium.
he defending European and French champions will arrive in Dublin as underdogs, which makes them a very dangerous proposition.
Having named an unchanged team for the eagerly-anticipated showdown between the two powerhouses, Leinster completed their captain’s run at the Aviva without any late issues.
Afterwards, Cullen described the scale of the challenge facing his side.
“They have the ability just to turn it on at this stage of the season,” the Leinster boss warned.
“Like, there’s two different styles, they have the pressure game where they tighten things up and keep the game very, very tight, then they’ve the ability to open up at moments in the game as well with some of the players that they have.
“It’s been pretty well documented, you’ve seen some of their individuals, the big seasons they’ve had, not just with Toulouse but with France.
“And they’ve a huge amount of experience in the team now that has produced on the big days, during the course of the Six Nations and you saw it during the November internationals as well.
“It’s a great challenge for our guys. They are the five time champions, they’re the current champions, they’re the Top 14 champions and they have a Grand Slam winning group of players as well.
“But that’s what our guys wanted, they want to be up against this type of team at this stage of the tournament.
“That’s what I mean, we’re waiting now and everyone just wants to get into the game at this point.
“From our point of view, there were some good parts in our performance, there’s lot of things we can get better at and that’s what we’ve tried to focus on as a group this week. We just want to get going now.”
Although Toulouse were forced to play 100 minutes in last week’s dramatic win over Munster, Cullen is reading too much into the fatigue factor, as he looks for a similarly fast start as Welford Road last time out.
“I don’t know, is the honest answer. Does it take a bit of a toll? They’re used to the grind of Top 14 anyway, week on week, so it’s the size of the game,” Cullen added.
“We’ll wait and see, it’s not something we will rely on ourselves; their fatigue.
“For us, we just want to impose our game regardless of what the opposition has done the week before. We tried to get that balance between having some intensity this week, recovering from coming back late on Saturday night, and just managing the group well this week.
“We only have one change to the 23, and their 23 is well settled. I know they picked up a couple of knocks in the backs last week.
“We’ve got to be able to impose our game, when we have the ball and when we don’t have the ball. When you’re at the Aviva, there’s a certain familiarity, but we can’t rely on it. We have the crowd’s support, it feeds into the energy of the team.
“For us to deliver that type of performance which brings a lot of energy and intent to our play, that’s the thing we’ve tried to focus on. Toulouse are hugely experienced, and they’ll be trying to find ways to disrupt our flow.
“We’ve discussed certain things that they may do, but again we have to be able to be alert to the things that they’re trying to impose upon us. It’s a fascinating challenge, they’re a great team. We watched on with great interest last year, we got knocked out in the semi-final against La Rochelle, and watched Toulouse go on and beat La Rochelle.
“It’s a fascinating challenge, we have huge respect for them as a team. We’re just excited to get going at this point, dying for kickoff. Let’s get it on now, it’s what we’re excited about, and just rip into the challenge of playing the top team of Europe over the last 25 years of the competition.
“It doesn’t get much better really, we’re excited to get going.”