Here are 3 of the key head-to-heads for Leinster v Castres

Physical scrum-halves, intelligent back rows and counter-attacking fullbacks will be on view at the RDS.

Isaac Boss faces a testing game against Rory Kockott.
Isaac Boss faces a testing game against Rory Kockott.
Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie

LEINSTER AND CASTRES meet at the RDS tomorrow afternoon in what should be one of the games of the weekend.

Pro12 champions meet Top 14 holders in Pool 1, with both sides have won their opening fixtures of the Heineken Cup against the Ospreys and Northampton respectively.

Here are three of the most important individual head-to-heads in tomorrow’s game.

Isaac Boss v Rory Kockott

The Ireland international has been quietly excellent for Leinster in the last few weeks, providing clean service to his back-line and organizing his forwards’ best passages of play. The 33-year-old certainly beats Kockott in the experience stakes, and Boss has been here many times before. His power in close quarters will be particularly useful against a muscular Castres side.

Despite playing with the number nine on his back, the South African is one of the French side’s most aggressive performers. Kockott relishes the more physical encounters, but also possesses sharp attacking instincts. The 27-year-old qualifies to play for France at the end of the season, and has all the ability needed to succeed at the top level.

Kockott’s importance to Castres is increased by the fact that he is their place kicker, and an excellent one at that. His 376 points last season made him the Top 14′s leading scorer, just three ahead of Jonny Wilkinson. Of course, the outcome of this head-to-head depends on which pack gets on top at the RDS.

Verdict: Kockott to lead the fight for Castres with his kicking and power, but Boss to enjoy his pack’s increasing dominance in the second half before making way for Eoin Reddan’s passing game.

Jamie Heaslip v Antonie Claassen

imageHeaslip was superb for Leinster against the Ospreys. ©INPHO/Billy Stickland.

Ireland and Lions international Heaslip is perhaps the most divisive player in Irish rugby; some think he is an intelligent, hard-working back row but others view him as overrated. For our money, Heaslip is a quality No. 8, even when he’s not as visible as he was against the Ospreys last weekend. Beyond his ability to carry the ball and run smart support lines, he excels in the small details of every game.

Those include sneaky blocking lines, technically excellent clear-outs at the breakdown and consistently strong lineout work. His captaincy remains to convince, but Leinster are lucky to have Heaslip in their ranks. Claassen is more of a ‘classic’ No.8 in that his strength is ball-carrying. The South African-born French international is very dynamic and will get over the gain-line for Castres.

The Top 14 outfit look to Claassen to inspire them, and he is a real leader even if he is not captain. The 28-year-old has truly embraced the French way of life in this six-and-a-bit seasons there and even sounds like a native when he speaks en Français. One of Castres’ most totemic figures, he will lead the charge.

Verdict: Claassen’s power in contact to have an effect as Castres attack, but Heaslip’s intelligent play to have the greater influence over the result.

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Rob Kearney v Brice Dulin

imageKearney is gradually getting back to his best for Leinster. ©INPHO/James Crombie.

After a truly disappointing Lions tour, Kearney has started this season in determined form. Now 27, the Louth man is one of the senior figures at the province and as such, Matt O’Connor will expect him to make a difference in games like this one. Kearney is as solid as anyone in rugby under the high ball and always offers as a threat on the counter, but the Australian coach will hope for an improvement in his one-on-one tackling.

Wearing 15 for Castres is the exciting French international Dulin, who missed the start of the season with a broken jaw suffered while celebrating the Top 14 success in June. Still only 23, the former Agen man will need to be watched closely by Leinster’s defence, as he has the speed, footwork and aggression to score from anywhere.

Dulin will launch counter-attacks if he gets even a sniff of space, and Kearney’s defence may be tested by the Castres man. The aerial game will of course be key, and the Leinster fullback has the edge in both catching and kicking.

Verdict: Dulin to attack with youthful vigour, but Kearney’s calm head to diffuse the aerial bombs and add incision to Leinster’s front foot possession.

Leinster v Castres (The RDS, 3.40pm)

Leinster: Rob Kearney, Fergus McFadden, Brendan Macken, Gordon D’Arcy, Dave Kearney; Jimmy Gopperth, Isaac Boss; Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Marty Moore; Devin Toner, Mike McCarthy; Kevin McLaughlin, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip (c).

Replacements: Aaron Dundon, Jack McGrath, Michael Bent, Quinn Roux, Rhys Ruddock, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan, Luke Fitzgerald.

Castres: Brice Dulin; Romain Martial, Romain Cabannes, Rémi Lamerat, Max Evans; Rémi Tales (c), Rory Kockott; Mihaiti Lazar, Brice Mach, Anton Peikrishvili; Richie Gray, Rodrigo Capo Ortega; Jannie Bornman, Pedrie Wannenburg, Antonie Claassen.

Replacements: Marc Antoine Rallier, Karena Wihongi, Saimone Taumoepeau, Christophe Samson, Ibrahim Diarra, Julien Thomas, Geoffrey Palis, Dan Kirkpatrick.

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Murray Kinsella

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