Leinster boss expecting Toulouse physical challenge as European giants collide

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen expects Toulouse to take his team on physically in Saturday’s clash of the Heineken Champions Cup heavyweights.

Four-time European champions Leinster tackle a club with a record five European titles under their belt.

And the semi-final clash at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium will be one of the tournament’s classic encounters if it lives up to its billing.

“(They have) a big physical pack,” Cullen told

“I think they will be very direct when they have the ball, confrontational.

“They kick the ball a fair amount. I know Toulouse’s reputation is free-flowing, off-loading rugby, but I think they will be pretty pragmatic, particularly at the start of the game.

“As the game starts to open up then they will start to move the ball around and you see a lot of their points come late in games.

“I think they will try to take us on physically, which is good because that is what we want as well, a good physical challenge for our guys.

“You want to test yourself against the best teams out there. It’s a great challenge. They have great quality.

“You can’t switch off for a second with some of the players that they have – game-changing players.”

Leinster beat Toulouse comfortably in last season’s semi-finals to secure their place in the showpiece, where they narrowly lost to La Rochelle.

And it is going to require another huge effort in Leinster’s quest for an Aviva Stadium return on May 20, when the winners will face holders La Rochelle or sole English survivors Exeter, who clash in Bordeaux on Sunday.

Cullen added: “Last year, they (Toulouse) had played 100 minutes (against Munster in the quarter-finals) and travelled.

“I heard some of their comments this week about that, how they got things wrong around some of the selections leading into that game, or that sequence of games.

“You need to be prepared to deal with whatever comes your way on any given day.”

Robbie Henshaw
Robbie Henshaw will miss Leinster’s clash against Toulouse (David Davies/PA)

Leinster will be without Ireland international centre Robbie Henshaw through injury, so Charlie Ngatai partners Garry Ringrose in midfield.

“We wanted to be the top seeds, we wanted to make sure we did everything to be here at the Aviva, and now we are,” Cullen said.

“We are here, which is great, and it is a real privilege and honour to be here at this point in the tournament.”