12 Dec, 14:42
Prop Cian Healy is expected to miss the start of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations after undergoing surgery on his injured ankle on Wednesday.
Perpignan will go into Saturday's Heineken Cup Final as underdogs when they take on Stade Toulousain but the favourites will need to take cognisance of the Catalan's record in this competition and particularly their away form in Europe.
As far back as 1998 when they played their first away Heineken Cup game, Perpignan rubbished the myth that French sides don't travel when they defeated Neath 51-33 at The Courage Gnoll. That season they went on to finish top of Pool 2 and their involvement in the competition only ended at the semi-final stage when they were beaten 10-6 by Colomiers in Toulouse.
The following two seasons saw them compete in the European Shield a period that saw them record away wins in Edinburgh (1999/00) and against Bridgend and Rotherham in 2000/01.
In sharp contrast, Toulouse were showing a distinct dislike for foreign fields and last season they lost all three games on the road, beaten 40-10 in Donnybrook, 42-9 in Newcastle and 21-20 by a poor Newport side in Rodney Road. That was of course the year of the horrific explosion in their city but their most recent venture abroad was to London for the final game of this season's Pool stages and again they lost, 32-29 to London Irish. And yes, they had the pool and the home quarter-final place secured at that stage but it does nothing for a side's confidence and they will arrive in Lansdowne Road with something of a monkey on their backs, final or not.
But Perpignan will arrive with only their playing gear for baggage. Their most recent European ventures will leave them in rude good health, away wins in Stradey Park and here in Lansdowne Road last time, gives them a big psychological advantage. Remember Llanelli hadn't been beaten in Stradey in the Heineken Cup since October 2000 when Gloucester trumped them 27-20 and Leinster hadn't lost a Heineken Cup game in Dublin since November 1998 when Llanelli beat them 34-27.
The Catalans will start as underdogs and it's a role they'll relish. They have a duarable and abrasive pack capable of matching Touoluse but if they adopt the disruptive tactics they used against Leinster they'll find themselves playing with less than a full complement more than once during the course of the game. They cannot afford that against a side like Stade Toulousain.