Arnold: Toulouse have learned from Leinster defeat

Arnold: Toulouse have learned from Leinster defeat

Stade Toulousain lock Richie Arnold believes his side are stronger after their Heineken Champions Cup semi-final defeat at Leinster Rugby last season.

The TOP 14 heavyweights head to Dublin to take on the Irish province in the last four again on Saturday and will be looking to avoid a repeat of their 40-17 loss.

Arnold is adamant that the setback at the Aviva Stadium was a learning curve for Toulouse and that they now have a better picture of how to overcome four-time champions Leinster.

“I think [we’re in a better place],” the Australia international said. “I think we learned a lot from last year’s defeat, just watching them, how they play.

“The big ones for beating them is winning the collisions, solid set piece and just defence. You have to be connected in defence.

“When their forwards play it at the line, they throw it out the back door and then they’ve got runners running decoy lines and all it takes is one or two people to be disconnected, and they cut you to pieces. Defence is going to be massive for us.

“We just have to back whatever our plan is and have cohesion at the lineout, if we’re going to block middle or block back, and get full lifts.

“We just have to worry about our detail for the week, put pressure on their lineout so they don’t have that platform to play off with clean ball.

“They’ve got so many variations of their launches, playing round the front, playing round the back. We’ve got a bit of homework but I’m sure the coaches and players will be all over their details.

“They’re a class team. They’re fit, solid set piece. That core group of players in that team have been together for a long time now.

“They play for Ireland, so they’ve got good cohesion and they’re a well-oiled team. It’s going to be a hell of a match.

“They’re a quality team and we’re well aware of last year, obviously, and they’ve knocked us out twice in the semi-final.”

Arnold refused to put last season’s loss to Leinster down to fatigue, with Toulouse having played extra time against Munster Rugby in the Round of 16 the week prior, but believes their squad has been better managed this campaign.

“It’s an easy excuse for us to make, with how long that match went on for,” he stated. “We just got beaten by the better team in the semi-final last year, they were class. There’s no excuses there.

“Obviously, it takes it out of the boys but we had time to recover and get in the ice baths. We’re all professional, we know how to recover.

“This year, I think we’ve learned a bit more, with how long the TOP 14 season is, about rotating the squad and giving some of the younger boys a crack and not always playing our strongest team.

“Last year I didn’t get to play the semi. I was struggling with a concussion or something. I’m chomping at the bit this year, I’m really looking forward to it.”

One player who will be crucial to Toulouse’s hopes of reaching the final is EPCR Player of the Year nominee Emmanuel Meafou, with Arnold heaping praise on his second-row partner.

“He’s great to play with, because you know he’s getting his nose through the line and he’s got his arms through and looking for offloads,” he explained.

“He’s a big boy so he can put some shots on too. He’s probably been one of our best, most consistent forwards this year. He’s had an awesome year.”

Arnold went on to underline the quality of the Heineken Champions Cup, and the added challenge South African teams have posed this season, with Toulouse having overcome Vodacom Bulls and Cell C Sharks earlier in the knockout stage.

“For me, it’s Test match, international rugby,” he stated. “I’ve played Super Rugby. I’ve played in Japan. I’ve played over her now and the intensity, the speed, it’s got everything.

“It’s awesome to play in it and this year has been cool, playing the South African teams and obviously playing other teams from different competitions. It’s unreal.”

“Some of our boys have never played a South African team and to be fair, they bring something else. They’re big, they’re physical and they’re fit.

“Bringing them into the competition this season has been really positive. You want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best, and those South African teams are right up there.”


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