Dan Sheehan: Our start and the physical side will decide it against Toulouse

Leicester win provides Leinster with ‘half the blueprint’ for how to beat Toulouse

In hindsight, maybe it’s no bad thing that Leinster suffered more than a little in the second-half at Welford Road. Had they maintained their 20-point lead until the end it might have deluded them into a false sense of security.

That second 40 minutes will give them plenty to work on from this morning onwards as they ready themselves to play the champions of Europe and France.

Dan Sheehan probably put it best when asked afterwards if that performance had provided the blueprint for next Saturday's semi-final.

“Half the blueprint,” he quickly retorted. “Second half, we’ll need a new blueprint I think, but we’ll find a way.”


“We need to be able to look back on that game and learn from our mistakes and how we can get control back in the game because I think we struggled to get a foothold back in the game.

“We maybe had a few breaks but within five minutes, we were back in our own 22 again. It’s just about managing territory and managing how the whole game unfolds, which will be crucial next week.”

Sheehan was asked if there had been a sense of dread when Mathieu Raynal penalised Leinster, and specifically Andrew Porter at the first scrum, and revived memories of the England-Ireland game at Twickenham, and said: "No. I don't think so.

“We have obviously spoken massively about it. There were four of the same faces in that scrum and then obviously the ref is the same. We had prepared for the last three weeks to be able to manage both ways, if it goes against us, be able to fix it ourselves.

"That was one thing we talked about from that Ireland-England game, we didn't find a solution right away. We relied on the review after the game but that's obviously too late. I think our problem-solving was better today."

Much of the focus – both pre-match and as the game unfolded – had been on the battle between Ellis Genge (whom Leinster clearly marked and successfully subdued) and Tadhg Furlong.

But Sheehan maintained: “He always has a good game. He’s pumped up with every game.”

Nor was Furlong’s performance a response to the events in Twickenham.

“No, I think he’s the most professional prop I have ever met. Every game I have been involved in, he takes the lead in the scrum, he’s a complete mastermind in the scrum.

“Maybe there was something in the back of the head for all of us from that (England) game, but he’s not only just pumped up, he’s got a huge brain; all these little figures going around in his head. It doesn’t look as basic as it seems.”

Five stars

Whether one of the team's senior players or one of the newer tyros on the block, the sense of anticipation was already acute in the Welford Road visiting dressing-room minutes after beating Leicester.

“They have five stars, it’s what we want,” said Sheehan. “But looking at their history and our history, it’s pretty similar. Two massive European clubs going head-to-head, which is exactly what you want. You have to beat the best to win. It’s a hugely exciting game, especially in the Aviva.”

I think don't it's going to be a case of trying to manage it or trying to survive or just hang on. You have to go hell for leather at them"

“I spent 15 years just sitting on the couch watching it or being at the games. To be over the whitewash playing in a game like this is hugely exciting. It’s something that even now, I am kinda getting tingles thinking about it. It’s one of the biggest games I will be involved in, hopefully.”

The round two Six Nations title decider between France and Ireland in Paris was something of a coming of age performance for Sheehan when replacing the stricken Ronan Kelleher in the 26th minute.

“Both sides will have a lot of familiar faces,” said Sheehan. “It’s going to be the direct carries, two big packs going up against each other. I think it will be a gain-line focused game for the first phases and then it’s who can get to the space the quickest.

“It’s all about the start. You saw in France, we struggled to start well and then it can be so hard to get back in the game. They’re able to smother the game out. I think the start and physical side will decide the game.”

“I think set-piece will be a massive part next week. They like to assert their dominance in scrum and maul. We will come up with a plan to assert our dominance in scrum and maul as well.

“I think don’t it’s going to be a case of trying to manage it or trying to survive or just hang on. You have to go hell for leather at them.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times