Toulouse head coach Ugo Mola was gracious in defeat, acknowledging that his team were well beaten in their Champions Cup semi-final defeat to Leinster. “There were too many things between us. We were unable to stem the blue waves. We came across a much better team than us.”
Mola pointed to the speed at which Leinster played as a central factor in the Irish province’s win, something that Toulouse could not live with for large passages of the game. He said: “We had a deficient kicking game at the beginning of the match. We became ordinary because of our inability to speed up. And on the other hand, Leinster’s speed was quite remarkable.
“I wasn’t talking tongue-in-cheek when I said I admired the way they [Leinster] played and I am even more [enamoured after this game]. We have taken a real rugby lesson; at the moment, they are much better than us, it is obvious. As always, lessons must be learned.”
The Toulouse coach was asked what positives he would take from the semi-final. “What is still positive in the evening is that a beautiful rugby team is in the European Cup final. Leinster plays exciting rugby. It may be very structured, very codified but it has the merit of being of rare effectiveness.
“And the question is that there is a season to end with a national [Top 14] title to defend and a lot of lessons to be learned. I believe that we never get out unscathed from this kind of encounter, but we must analyse the good things to get the best out of it in some time.”
"We suffered against this team [Leinster] who were really on their game, who produced rapid, aggressive rugby. After a while when all we are doing is playing on the back foot, it is obviously tough to defend." – Toulouse hooker Julien Marchand sums up his feelings after the Heineken Champions Cup semi-final defeat to Leinster.
By the Numbers
13: The number of times that Leinster and Toulouse have opposed one another in the Heineken Champions Cup since the tournament began 27 years ago. Leinster's victory at the weekend broke the deadlock and saw them edge ahead 7-6 in terms of wins. Only Munster and Castres Olympique have met on more occasions (18) in European ties.
Hard work pays off for Aldegheri
Dorian Aldegheri offered a very interesting personal insight into the work he does to try to ensure that the Toulouse scrum is as powerful as possible. The tighthead prop was a significant factor in the French club's dominance over Munster in their European quarter-final and again at the weekend when they squeezed out a few penalties against Leinster.
The French international explained why he can often be seen catching his breath as his teammates rush in to celebrate. “I am often seen blowing. They [my team-mates] know that I am in apnoea and that I recover because it is still a big effort, I put everything into it for the good of the forwards and the team.”
Aldegheri outlined all the physical work that he does initially in pre-season, particularly cardio, and then topped up in training, but he also highlighted another area of focus. “I analyse my direct opponent. I am looking if he goes a little further inside or outside, if he is high, if he is low, if it puts [on] pressure.
"But sometimes you can plan things and something else crops up. You must be able to react and adapt [during matches]." He said that he shares the intel that he gathers on the opposition with the rest of the Toulouse props, an initiative fostered by Virgile Lacombe, the Toulouse scrum coach.
Aldegheri said: “We make a montage and a roadmap by filling out a card on the opposition props, and afterwards it is presented orally to the other props.” As the last fortnight has revealed, that work pays off handsomely in matches.
O’Byrne boosts Irish numbers at Ealing
According to reports in England, Munster hooker Kevin O'Byrne is set to join English Championship champions Ealing Trailfinders ahead of the 2022-2023 season. The 31-year-old has played just three matches for the Irish province this season, all off the bench for a total of 52-minutes. This follows on from the previous season when he was named in the Pro14 "Dream Team" having scored five tries in 18 appearances.
O'Byrne has played 90 times for Munster since making his debut against Edinburgh in 2014 but has had to compete for game time with Niall Scannell, Diarmuid Barron and Scott Buckley. He will join a sizable Irish contingent at the London club that included this season Shane Buckley, David Johnston, Bill Johnston, Cian Kelleher, Stephen Kerins, Angus Kernohan, Tadhg McElroy and David O'Connor, the latter on a short-term loan from Ulster.
Ealing were prevented from being promoted to the English Premiership by the English RFU because their ground didn't meet the 10,000-capacity threshold, but, having accepted the ruling, the club have put a plan in place to ensure that they will be able to join the elite in the future. Former Ulster academy manager and Ireland Under-20 coach Kieran Campbell is part of the coaching group.
Leinster coach Stuart Lancaster’s son, Dan, a former England Under-20 international, is expected to join the London club from the Leicester Tigers.