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In Pics: Leinster Leave For Toulouse

In Pics: Leinster Leave For Toulouse

Click here for photos as the Leinster squad and supporters leave for Toulouse ahead of Saturday’s crunch Heineken Cup quarter-final tie with the French giants.

Pictured above: A plane topped off with a Leinster flag and loaded with Leinster supporters prepares for take-off for Toulouse. Over 5,000 blue-clad fans are expected to make the journey to France to cheer on Michael Cheika’s side. Centre Gordon D’Arcy, who is set for his 100th cap for the province, said: “The support from the stands will certainly be a factor. To be honest, I think that the 5,000 travelling support is a conservative estimate because a lot of people are going to book their tickets late.

“That level of support is something that they (Toulouse) won’t be used to in their own ground and it will definitely give us an extra lift. The support that we’ve received recently on our travels has been incredible.”

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The Leinster squad gets their bags off the coach at Dublin Airport. Leinster boss Michael Cheika said of tomorrow’s clash: “We can’t allow Toulouse to dictate the pace. When they are good, they are very good. Together, they do the right things and are capable of really hurting any opposition.

“But when there’s a line in front of them, when defences are strong and aggressive, they do make mistakes. We will aim to give them so many problems to deal with, that it will be hard for them to focus on their traditional style of play.”

Ireland’s most-capped player Malcolm O’Kelly arrives in the departures area at Dublin Airport. The Essex-born lock said: “Toulouse are the kings of Europe. They’ve been a hugely successful side over the last few year. On form, you know, they’re pretty impeccable. But in eighty minutes of rugby, anything can happen and we’re going down there with the intention of turning them over and not just to make up the numbers.

“We feel we can make a difference and as a squad, we’re hugely confident and hugely keen.”

Gordon D’Arcy will become the seventh Leinster player to rack up 100 caps when he lines out against Toulouse tomorrow. The Wexford man – the youngest, at 26, to achieve the landmark – is following in the footsteps of past greats Shane Byrne and Victor Costello, and current team mates Reggie Corrigan, Brian O’Meara, Girvan Dempsey and Denis Hickie.

D’Arcy will come face to face with another of his former provincial colleagues Trevor Brennan at the Stadium Municipal. He said: “I’ve only played against Trevor once before and that was for Lansdowne against St. Mary’s. I ran down the short side and, believe me, I wouldn’t have taken that option had I known that he was there and he just cut me in two! We’ll need to be wary of his threat. This is an international game for him. He’s an Irishman playing in France, but he’s also the heart of the Toulouse side.

“A lot of players like Trevor have come and gone over the years and it has been a pleasure to play with them. I’m really enjoying my rugby with Leinster and hopefully there are many more great days to come.”

Rob Kearney, who is on the bench for tomorrow’s game, stretches as the Leinster players check in for their flight. The UCD student turned 20 last Sunday and having made his Heineken Cup debut against Bath last October, has scored three tries and a conversion in six appearances in Europe.

Leinster captain Brian O’Driscoll at Dublin Airport today. O’Driscoll was a member of the Leinster side that lost 43-7 on the province’s last visit to Toulouse’s Stadium Municipal in January 2002. He said: “I think Toulouse that day were brilliant – everything went their way, passes stuck and we didn’t help ourselves by maybe standing off them. Potential to mix the rugby will be crucial. We cannot rely on trying to play one brand of rugby and we have to react positively to the type of game that unfolds.”

Brian O’Driscoll signs an autograph at Dublin Airport. Having missed out on France’s entire RBS 6 Nations campaign due to a toe injury, Yannick Jauzion is looking forward to locking horns with O’Driscoll, amongst others, tomorrow. He said: “It’s going to be a really tough game. Leinster have several players who are really hard to defend against – obviously that includes the likes of (Brian) O’Driscoll and (Gordon) D’Arcy, but also Felipe Contepomi who has had a fantastic Heineken Cup so far and is a really dangerous player.

“I was obviously disappointed to miss out on the Six Nations and with the Irish centre pair at Leinster and me and Florian Fritz playing for Toulouse, I suppose it is a bit like France v Ireland in the back line.”

Leinster coach Michael Cheika heads for the departure gates at Dublin Airport as the province jet off for their fifth Heineken Cup meeting with Toulouse since 1997. Retired back row Victor Costello scored Leinster’s only try when the sides last met in 2002.

**All photos by Donall Farmer of Inpho Photography**