Leinster will chase a ninth win in 18 Heineken Cup trips to France when they pitch up at the Stade Félix Mayol on Sunday to take on reigning champions Toulon.
The province have developed an enviable habit of winning away from home in Europe’s premier competition, and will need to repeat the trick this weekend in Toulon.
Matt O’Connor’s men won all three of their away matches in this season’s pool stages, defeating the Ospreys, Northampton Saints and Castres Olympique on the road.
The first ever meeting of Leinster and Toulon will see two giants of the game, Brian O’Driscoll and England’s Jonny Wilkinson, go head to head for the final time with the loser signing off on their European career at the final whistle.
O’Driscoll was part of the Leinster team that claimed the province’s first victory on French soil when they beat Montferrand – now Clermont Auvergne – 23-20 in December 2002, with the centre involved in the build-up to Denis Hickie’s match-winning try.
Some memorable triumphs for the Blues on the continent have followed since then, chief amongst them being the thrilling 41-35 quarter-final defeat of Toulouse in 2006 and the gripping 19-15 semi-final win over Clermont in Bordeaux two years ago.
Eoin Reddan, who came on as a second half replacement in that 2012 game, is ideally placed to weigh up the task of winning in France given his Heineken Cup-winning pedigree with both Leinster and London Wasps.
“Clermont and Toulon are probably the two toughest (places to win),” said the scrum half, who will be back on French soil for the first time since Ireland’s Six Nations win in Paris.
“Even the Bordeaux game away (in the 2012 semi-finals), we weren’t in Clermont’s home ground which we will be this week (against Toulon). They’re definitely favourites for the Heineken Cup.
“Toulon are definitely favourites (for the title) – they are the current champions, they’ve got a home quarter and a home semi if they manage to beat us.
“So, obviously we know what we’re up against this week. It’s going to be tough. We need to get our homework done early so the intensity we’ve spoken about just comes out at the weekend and all of the detail is done.”
There is no doubt that Leinster will have to lift their game from last weekend’s derby win over Munster. Ian Madigan’s late penalty saw them edge out their arch rivals by four points at the Aviva Stadium.
The interprovincial fixture afforded O’Connor the chance to reintegrate the Six Nations winners into the matchday squad, and Reddan believes they are ready to cope with the increased intensity that European knockout rugby brings.
“The first half (against Munster) was a good intensity. The second half was up and down. It’s a different picture this week,” explained the Limerick man, who has 65 Heineken Cup appearances to his name.
“Because it’s a knockout the intensity will be sustained until the end. It will only get higher and higher as the whistle approaches.
“Last Saturday was great but everyone watching and playing knows there is a bit more in store this week. It’s not something you need to concentrate on.
“Your intensity for those games is always there. It will be there, it’s not something you need to worry about.”
After being rested on Monday, Reddan and fellow backs O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy all took a full part in Tuesday’s training session in UCD.
There was also a return to training for Dave Kearney, who has recovered from a knock, and Rhys Ruddock who was carrying a calf injury.
Other players not considered for selection against Munster, like props Cian Healy, Jack McGrath and Martin Moore, all trained successfully.