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Highlights on Off The Ball

"A game for the ages" - Gerry Thornley

Clash of the Titans. For the second time in two years, Leinster will face off against Top 14 lea...


"A game for the ages" - Gerry Thornley

Clash of the Titans.

For the second time in two years, Leinster will face off against Top 14 leaders, Toulouse, in what looks to be a box office affair.

Last time out Leinster ran Toulouse ragged by their breakneck speed and ferocious running game. The match finished 40-17 in favour of the boys in blue.

On Monday Night Rugby, journalist Gerry Thornely offered his opinion on how the game will go.

“It could be a game for the ages, never mind the game of the season, it could be that good,” said Thornley. “It certainly has every potential to rival that epic, titanic clash between Ireland and France in the Six Nations. And it's not far off it in terms of personnel, it's a test match in all but name. Toulouse came over last year and they were like fatted calves.”

“They were satisfied. They'd won the double the year before. They got their fifth star and, I don't know, their 22nd, Top 14 title, or whatever it is, they're just this machine that hoovers up silverware. “

“Their front liners, Roman Ntimack, Antoine Dupont, all those forwards, and Thomas Ramos, maybe not Ramos so much last season, had been involved in an unbeaten Six Nations, won the Grand Slam for the first time in 12 years, had beaten the All Blacks the previous November by the time they racked up to Dublin. They played Munster the week before in the quarterfinals because that's the way it was scheduled last season.”

“And of course, Munster did Leinster a favour by taking them to 100 minutes and a goal-kicking shootout. So they arrived somewhat shagged, somewhat sated, but not this season. They're hungry because they didn't win any silverware last year."

“Ntimack got his mojo back at Twickenham as soon as Mathieu Jalibert got injured. He just suddenly rediscovered himself. Thomas Ramos is metronomic, playing like he's doing, football passes on his own goal line. He's nailing 50/22s, instigating counterattacks, and finishing off tries.”

“I mean, there's no debate about the French number 15 jersey anymore, it's his. So we've got a host of players in both sides playing the best rugby of their lives. And Toulouse are a hungrier fresher side. They rested Richie Arnold, Emmanuel Miafu and one other at the weekend in the Classico against Stad Francais, even though that trimmed their lead to one point, because La Rochelle won. And finishing first is significant in the Top 14, because it means you get the advantage of playing on the Friday night semi-final before the final and Toulouse want that.”

“That's what they got two years before. And of course, last year they only finished fifth in the Top 14, so this year they're winning it. So just I was looking through Dupont's records last week, he started 22 games this season. He's only lost one against Ireland. Ramos has only lost two, one against Pau, one against Ireland.”

“Lots of Toulouse front liners are pretty much unbeaten this season. The games they've lost have been without their front liners, and they've clearly targeted this game every bit as much as Leinster has. And they've got, of course, they've got revenge in their nostrils as well. And Leinster are themselves want that fifth star. I hope I'm setting it up as well as I can and it could even surpass expectations.”

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