Castres have something to prove in Dublin

The Leinster coach will be ready for whatever the French team brings this week

Despite Castres taking their own domestic competition, the Top 14, more seriously than the European Champions Cup, Leinster coach Mat O'Connor expects Saturday's fifth-round pool match to be used as a launching pad for the visiting team to get back into contention in France.

O'Connor will do without Jack McGrath at loosehead prop but has his captain Jamie Heaslip available and sang the praises of prop Michael Bent, "who has done a fantastic job" and is "invaluable to the group".

"They've prioritised the Top 14 over Europe so the back-to-back games against Harlequins are largely irrelevant. They will try to get momentum for the domestic league of these games in Europe," said O'Connor.

“We need to make sure we look after our own backyard and get the win first. We have to put out a quality 80 minutes that gives ourselves the best chance. There is still a lot of rugby to be played in round five across the pools. Five points would be ideal. But we have to win first and then we have to worry about going to Wasps.”


O’Connor was uncertain about the attitude of the French team and how much they want to win in Dublin but will have Leinster prepared to play against a cast of relatively unknown players and internationals.

“From our end it’s totally uncontrollable,” said O’Connor about what Castres attitude will be. “It’s irrelevant to us. We need to make sure that we arrive at the RDS in the right mindset to deliver a performance.”

Making adjustments

O’Connor watched Castres against Stade last week and agreed that they were disappointing – Castres lost 49-13 in Paris. But he contends that the French side are making adjustments and that the game against Leinster is also about Castres making their way up the Top 14 table in France, where they currently sit second from the bottom.

“Yeah, they were a little bit disappointing but, again, they are making assessments about what they can win and the priorities and resources they put into contests,” said the Leinster coach. “From now to the end of the season will be important for them in staying in the top league.”

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times