Leinster dream of a silver lining
Leinster will be motivated by the memory of a season without silverware when they tackle Heineken Cup holders Toulouse in Dublin tomorrow.
That is the clear message from Leinster and former Ireland wing Shane Horgan as the 2009 European champions target a place in this season's May 21 final against Northampton or Perpignan.
Victory at the Aviva Stadium would see Leinster avenge last year's semi-final defeat against Toulouse in France, when they were beaten 26-16.
And it would also mean Toulouse being kept waiting in their quest to reach a seventh final and win the trophy for a record fifth time.
Horgan said: “Each year you are always hungry for the Heineken Cup, but after tasting success a couple of years ago all you want to do is replicate that.
“We have the same desire as ever to win the competition, and we would do anything to achieve it. Last season was trophy-less for us, and that really hurt. It is still in the back of our minds.
“The season has gone very well so far, but that means nothing. We have to go out and perform against Toulouse.
“We have got home advantage, and of course you would take that every time, but we still have to go out and play our rugby.
“We have got massive respect for Toulouse. We know they are dangerous right across the field. There will be lots of individual battles going on, and we need to ensure we don't give them the time and space to play.”
Leinster knocked out English champions Leicester in the quarter-finals, while Toulouse needed extra-time to defeat French rivals Biarritz when flanker Yannick Nyanga scored a late try.
And although Leinster start as marginal favourites, Toulouse's tournament pedigree — they have won 19 from 27 Heineken knockout matches — suggests a fearsome tussle.
“We are expecting a big battle, especially up-front,” said Toulouse prop Census Johnston.
“We did well in Europe last year and it set-up a platform for us. Even though we have targeted the Heineken Cup again this year, we know they (Leinster) will be doing the same.
“They have put in some strong performances and have been working hard, so we know it is going to be a challenge.
“We all know what is ahead of us. It's going to be a terrific atmosphere in front of 50,000 supporters in a stadium we haven't played in before.
“It's a huge test playing away from home, but we will have to rise to that.
“We have been watching Leinster this week and they have threats all over the pitch.
“They are a team that plays a lot of open running rugby like us, so it is going to come down to defence on the day.”
Leinster coach Joe Schmidt will field the team that accounted for Leicester three weeks ago, but Toulouse will ring the changes – four from the Biarritz encounter, handing starts to Nyanga, scrum-half Jean-Marc Doussain, prop Jean-Baptiste Poux and lock Yoann Maestri.