Jimmy Gopperth to start for Leinster against Toulon
Ian Madigan dropped for Heineken Cup quarter-final in southern France on Sunday
Jimmy Gopperth starts ahead of Ian Madigan against Toulon.
Leinster coach Matt O’Connor has handed Jimmy Gopperth the number 10 jersey for Sunday’s Heineken Cup quarter-final against Toulon at the Stade Felix Mayol (4.30, Irish time) with Ian Madigan having to settle for a place on the replacements bench.
On three occasions last month against Glasgow, Zebre and last weekend, Munster, Ian Madigan was the starting outhalf and played the full 80 minutes.He scored 13, seven and 17 points in the respective matches, compiling admirable place-kicking statistics in the process but O’Connor has opted for Gopperth for the trip to southern France.
Luke Fitzgerald will also drop out of the starting XV (Leinster have not explained his absence but it would appear he picked up an injury against Munster) with the fit-again Dave Kearney coming back into the side while Cian Healy and Rhys Ruddock return to the pack in place of Michael Bent and Kevin McLaughlin, with both of those players not even making the matchday 23.
“We have trained really well all week,” O’Connor said of his selection. “A full squad and everyone at full tilt is not something we have had at our disposal in quite a while.
“That creates challenges for us as a coaching group but the players have brought a great intensity to the paddock all week and each and every one of them has put their hands up. There are disappointed blokes left behind, but we also have a 23 that we believe are more than capable of delivering a performance.
“This is a huge battle and we are under no illusions. Going down to the Stade Felix Mayol is not for the faint hearted. We have huge respect for what they bring to the contest. They are the current Heineken Cup champions and rightly favourites. But we are ready for the battle. We have a fit squad that are relishing the enormity of the challenge that we face.”
O’Connor also alluded to the experience that his squad has and that this is a key factor as they head off to France.
“This will be a squad effort and this squad has experience of big games and of grinding out big results when the odds are against them. To quote a military term we are a leaderful group. Our squad is full of guys who understand the psychology of cup rugby and like our opponents have been to the summit of this amazing competition and want to revisit it. Our leaders have guided us to three away wins in the group stages and mentally we are a very resilient team ready for the challenge that awaits us on Sunday.”
For their part, Toulon will be without their hugely influential pair of seasoned locks, ex-All Blacks Ali Williams and ex-Springboks’ Bakkies Botha, through injury with Danie Rossouw and Jocelino Suta starting in the second row.
Martin Castrogiovanni, sidelined since Ireland’s win over Italy four weeks ago, will not be thrown straight back into the fray having been named on the banch while Jonny Wlkinson and Matt Giteau will return at ‘10’ and ‘12’.
Toulon: Delon Armitage; Drew Mitchell, Mathieu Bastareaud, Matt Giteau, David Smith; Jonny Wilkinson, Sebastien Tillous-Borde; Xavier Chiocci, Craig Burden, Carl Hayman; Danie Rossouw, Jocelino Suta; Juan Smith, Juan Fernandez Lobbe, Steffon Armitage. Replacements: Jean-Charles Orioli, Florian Fresia, Martin Castrogiovanni, Virgile Bruni, Bryan Habana, Maxime Mermoz, Michael Claassens, Konstantine Mikautadze
Leinster: Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Dave Kearney; Jimmy Gopperth, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross; Devin Toner, Mike McCarthy; Rhys Ruddock, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip. Replacements: Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath, Martin Moore, Leo Cullen, Jordi Murphy, Isaac Boss, Ian Madigan, Zane Kirchner