‘A lesson in rugby’: How the French press reacted to Leinster’s win over Toulouse

Johnny Sexton comes in for special praise from media in France

“A lesson in rugby that Toulouse rarely receives” was the headline in French newspaper Le Figaro following Leinster’s 40-17 hammering of Toulouse in the European Champions Cup on Saturday.

Arnaud Coudry of Le Figaro wrote Toulouse were swept away by the efficiency, speed and aggressiveness of the Leinster players.

“Leinster shines with its organisation, its style of play programmed and recited off by heart. Cold efficiency.

“The hard learning of the very high level continues for the golden generation of Stade Toulousain. In pain this time.”

He wrote that Toulouse were “swept away” and Leinster is now “certainly the favourite for the title” no matter who won the other semi-final.

Praising the "rustproof" Johnny Sexton, he wrote: "The years pass, the concussions too, but he is still there. At 36, we wonder if he is still at the level, but Sexton proves in high-stakes matches that he is still just as effective."

Amid the praise for Leinster, however, he claimed Irish provinces have a definite advantage over French teams as URC teams “do not have the same priorities”.

“For several weeks, Sexton and the best players have been left to rest, spared and exempted from URC matches for the Champions Cup, when the Toulousains still have to scrap to ensure their place in the final phase of the Top 14. Obviously, the freshness is not the same. Leinster appeared physically a notch above Stade Toulousain.”

Richard Escot of French sport newspaper L'Équipe wrote "Toulouse could never express themselves, always retreating because of pressure and undoubtedly paid for the excess of energy of their quarter-final last Saturday against Munster.

“Toulouse were only a shadow of themselves, a striking contrast with the Irish, who were aggressive on the advantage line and always perfectly positioned.”

Praising Leinster, he wrote “Leinster’s combinations of alternating play testify to the perfect knowledge the Irish have of their game. In comparison, Toulouse’s game seemed telegraphed.”

An analysis piece by Alex Bardot on L'Équipe said the most striking issue for Toulouse was their difficulty in containing Leinster's attacking shape.

“Few teams in the world have mastered the principles of ‘3+1’ so much. In order to compete, Toulouse would have had to imitate the first of the French team against Ireland in the Six Nations, dominate the impacts and a strong involvement in rucks to slow down the game. But they quickly showed weaknesses and found themselves running after the ball and after the Irish.”

Justine Saint-Sevin of France Info wrote the stinging defeat did not come as a major surprise as Toulouse had been sluggish this season.

“The Toulousains missed nearly 32 tackles (compared to 19 on the Leinster side). The players failed to read the opponent’s play. Toulouse was also tactically dominated.

“Their difficulty in occupying the field, the lost balls: everything is partly symptomatic of a team with a deeply damaged physique.”

She also highlighted fatigue as a reason for Toulouse’s hammering, with the French side going to Ireland three times in short notice and given the craziness of last week’s game against Munster.

“In short, even a Toulouse in full confidence would have had to grind out a win.”

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