Ian Madigan is an option at 10 and 12 for Leinster this weekend. Donall Farmer/INPHO
les miserables

Leinster wary of wounded animal as focus turns to weakened Castres

The French side were hammered by Stade Français over the weekend.

WHILE LEINSTER WERE going about securing a bonus-point victory over Cardiff on Saturday, Castres were busy licking their wounds after a 49-13 hammering at the hands of Stade Français the night before.

The Parisians were understandably motivated by events in their city during the preceding days, while their Top 14 form has been strong all season and has them deservedly lying second, level on match points with leaders Clermont.

Castres were missing Johnnie Beattie, Rory Kockott and fullback Geoffrey Palis, while international out-half Rémi Talès was benched.

All that said, it was a miserable evening for David Darricarrère and Serge Milhas’ men, as they conceded six tries at Stade Jean-Bouin and offered up a performance that underlined how their current status as relegation contenders has been well earned.

Missed tackles, a lack of work-rate in defence, and two penalty tries at scrum time were encouraging for Leinster ahead of Saturday’s Champions Cup clash at the RDS, given that Castres [13th in the Top 14] are unlikely to field a full-strength XV this weekend.

They’d gone pretty well in the previous couple of weeks, they’d beaten Montpellier and La Rochelle at home,” said Leinster forwards coach Leo Cullen today.

“Listen, Castres have been in a bit of a relegation dog fight, they’d a few key guys pulled out at the weekend for a pretty tough trip to Stade, who’ve been playing very well.

Sean O'Brien Sean O'Brien continues his recovery from shoulder surgery. Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

“It’s very hard to know with Castres, because they’re managing their way through – like ourselves – quite a lot of injuries. They’re at a part of the season where they’re not going to qualify from the pool, so they’ll probably manage their squad somehow.

“But you’ve only got 38 players in your [European] squad. There’s all sorts of motivations at this time of the season. You’ve got guys coming off contracts, guys who want to get back in the first team. If they rotate to give those guys a chance, that could potentially be just as dangerous.”

It remains to be seen exactly how Darricarrère and Milhas treat their team selection, but anything other than a weakened team would be a surprise.

As for Leinster, they have a number of selection calls of their own to make this weekend. Jamie Heaslip’s status as “50/50″ may mean a start for Jack Conan in the back row, while Shane Jennings, Jordi Murphy and Dominic Ryan also compete for spots.

A return in the centre for Ian Madigan could be on the cards, although against a poorly-functioning Castres defence his skills would appear to be more suited to a start in the number 10 shirt.

Luke Fitzgerald is set to return at outside centre, but who gets the nod inside him? Ben Te’o showed his physical ability against Cardiff, while Gordon D’Arcy and Noel Reid offer different skillsets if Madigan is indeed selected at 10.

Leinster secured a win away to Castres earlier this season, when their scrum suffered a poor day at the office. Injuries to Mike Ross and Marty Moore on the tighthead side meant Michael Bent wore number three, but those issues have subsided now.

Cullen jokes that it’s the loosehead side where Leinster currently have problems.

General view scrum Leinster has some issues at the scrum away to Castres this season. Inpho / Billy Stickland Inpho / Billy Stickland / Billy Stickland

“This week it’s almost the opposite, where we have looseheads out. Ed Byrne, Cian [Healy] still with a cloud over him, Jack [McGrath] with a cloud over him. Michael Bent played at loosehead over the weekend and did very well up against Adam Jones.

Jamie Hagan has been in on loan and has worked really hard to get himself in a good shape, because traditionally he’s been playing tighthead but he shifted across to loosehead as well. I thought he did really well when he came in as well.”

Bent is set to start another European game at loosehead, with McGrath suspended.

On that front, Leinster have not yet lodged an appeal over the prop’s three-week suspension. With the judgement having been handed down on Friday, the province have three working days in which to appeal.

That means a Wednesday deadline, and if Leinster were to successfully appeal McGrath’s ban, there is potential for him to be involved against Wasps on 24 January.

Leinster captain Jamie Heaslip an injury doubt for visit of Castres

O’Shea among the tries while Davidson’s Aurillac beat O’Sullivan’s Biarritz

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