'Leinster can't underestimate...
Rugby

'Leinster can't underestimate Lyon' | McCarthy on the French table-toppers

Eoin Harte
Eoin Harte

11:30 21 Nov 2019

Mike McCarthy feels Leinster should be very wary of the threat that Lyon pose in their upcoming Heineken Champions Cup clash.

While Lyon don’t exactly have a proud history in Europe, they are currently top of the Top 14 with eight wins from nine games.

They came undone at the hands of Northampton at Franklin’s Gardens last week but could be an entirely different prospect on home ground.

The former Leinster lock was speaking on Thursday's OTB AM and predicted an improved performance from the French side.

“I think Leinster can’t underestimate this Lyon team and I’m sure they won’t. I think the Lyon team was slightly weakened to the one they will play at home this week.

“Lyon gave away 24 penalties in that game away to Northampton. When you give away 24 penalties - anything more than ten and you’re going to really struggle to win the game.

“Twenty-four penalties is a ridiculous amount of penalties to give away. How the scoreboard looked even reasonably close - I’m not sure. I’m sure they’ll clear up that aspect and will be looking for less than ten penalties,” McCarthy said.

The former Ireland international has a good friend in the Northampton Saints camp and he gave McCarthy plenty of insight into how the French league leaders play.

While Lyon possess the bulk that is common in most French sides they are more attack-focused than the typical Top 14 team.

“But they’re a typical French side. Big, grizzly, powerful and strong. They have a really dangerous backline. They play with a huge amount of ambition and they play an expansive style under Pierre Mignoni, the coach.

“He’s a former nine who worked under Joe Schmidt and Vern Cotter at Clermont. Contepomi has been speaking very highly of him about how he’s a hard worker and a really good coach. He’s got a lot of time for him.

“But they’re slightly different to other French sides. They look to counter-attack from their own half. So off kick-offs, they have big Carl Fearns. He’s a number 8 and a huge man.

“They’re not looking to just set up a ruck and exit with a box [kick] for field position. They’re looking to play and find space and they're looking to attack you.

“They are one of the few sides in France that play from deep. Then when they do decide to kick they can kick long and gain some territory,” McCarthy explained.

Lyon's key players

Lyon are certainly not short of talent, even if many of their stars have flown slightly under the radar on the international scene.

“From speaking to my mate in the camp, he named the key players for them, like[Patricio] Fernandez at 10. He’s a poor defender but he’s got a lot of trick plays and plays close to the line.

“Within the camp, [Chris] Boyd thinks the 12 [Charlie] Ngatai is one of the best Kiwis not to [feature regularly for the All Blacks].

“We mentioned Carl Fearns, big, go-forward. They use him on a lot of special plays at line-outs. He peels around the back and the front.

“Liam Gill who’s mentioned in the same breath as Pocock and Hooper. The Australian is really fast at the breakdown and turnovers. [Patrick] Sobela, the big number 8 who’s really powerful.

“The scrum is a big weapon for them. They scrummage a bit like Argentina with the two props pincering in which can cause a bit of pressure on teams.

“But in general they’ve got really good shape, they look to find space and they’ve got some really dangerous Fijian wingers out there. We all know of [Josua] Tuisova,” McCarthy warned.

Leinster take on Lyon at the Matmut Stadium de Gerland at 3.15pm Irish time on Saturday, in what should prove to be their biggest test of the season so far.

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Heineken Champions Cup Leinster Lyon Mike McCarthy Rugby

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