Saint-André with little sympathy for Leinster after ‘men against boys’ defeat

Montpellier coach says 18 of his squad had contracted Covid in last two and half weeks

Although the grumblings over the decision to award Montpellier a 28-0 walkover against Leinster in the second round still rankles with Leo Cullen and his staff, the French club's head coach Philippe Saint-André had little sympathy.

Understandably perhaps after Sunday’s record defeat at the RDS, he is not of a mind to have the match replayed.

“You know, I am not a member of EPCR, it is not my job. As a story I am not worried with Leinster, today they get five points, they are already qualified I think,” he said, while admitting he did not know the results of Sunday’s other games.

“They will play Bath next week and I am sure they will be qualified, they are still one of the favourites for the competition.

"It is difficult for me to give one opinion, rather than the EPCR make the decision with medical staff, with one specialist of the parliament. Like us last week we wanted to play but we did not have enough frontrows to play against Toulouse so the game was cancelled and you can see what we showed today.

“When you have a cluster in your squad, you hurt. You have to revise quickly, you have to return fitness-wise and we showed this today.”

While lamenting that this was the strongest side he could field, Saint-André could scarcely conceal his embarrassment.

Basketball score

“It’s not a rugby score, it’s a basketball score. We fight last year to win the shield (Challenge Cup) and win the competition, and to not show more than this is very painful after we have three or four more positive cases three days ago, a lot in the backline. Today our backline was very young with little experience but I was expecting more than we showed but Leinster were amazing.”

In congratulating Leinster, he maintained his side did not throw in the towel, noting that 18 of his squad had contracted Covid in the last two and a half weeks.

“Today we managed to have a team but we changed three times the team during the week. We were struggling from the first to the last minute, I coached for a long long time. I never lost by this score. There is not so much to say.

“I hope that next week I will have a lot of players back available. Today we finished with nearly all the academy backline against maybe the Irish backline. You can see there was huge difference. It was men against boys.

“We have nothing to say. We wanted to play, we didn’t play for the last 20 days. We had injuries, we had a red card too. We’ll come back and hope we’ll have no more Covid in the squad and train again and get back some key players.”

Nor was Leo Cullen of a mind to agree that an 89-7 scoreline is a bad look for the tournament.

“Ideally you’d like every team to go full-out for every game, but I don’t know the situation in Montpellier, so it’s unfair for me to comment.

“For the game in round two, we had a decent group of players we thought, but obviously circumstances and all the rest, so it’s hard to keep talking about the same thing over and over.

“I don’t know what their situation is. For us, we just need to focus on ourselves really. That’s all we can do now, and as I said it hasn’t been an easy time for sport in general.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times