Off we head to the home of the Fighting Milkman on the back of a loss to Llanelli at the Madejski. The results tally thus far does not make for impressive reading for anybody associated with London Irish, 5 losses to 3 wins. The steamrollering by Llanelli has not filled the travelling support with confidence of doing anything other than winning the dining and wining battle.
The Irish back room staff will be sweating on a number of players passing fitness tests during the week, what game plan to hit the Stade Toulousain team with and just who to start the game with?
For Stade, will SteveS’s favourite player, Michalak start at 10, with Ellisalde at 9? Dodge or Rees will have their work cut out. If Dodge is fit after Friday last, he should start. He is more aggressive and consequently certainly gives the appearance of getting the ball out faster from a going backward pack. Rees is pretty solid and it is interesting to note that he has quickly beome the close 2nd choice Scrummie.
Will we see the half-human Maka face up to the Geezer at 8 or will Murph get the opportunity to take to the field from the off? For my money, Murphy needs to start as Irish desperately need a ball-carrier who can hold onto the ball whilst making the hard yards. Danaher did enough against the Scarlets to warrant a start and McCullen should be fired up for a lash against his former team mates. Or will Magne be looking to get a slap at a few of his old mates?
The Irish patched up front row combo will face the mighty Hasan, Bru and Perugini. The combined weight of the Irish front row is comparable to the ST front Row, but the balance is what will count here. Irish will probably look to the experienced international of Coetzee at hooker rather than the get up and go of Paicey. The choices are limited in the prop positions. Will Tonga’s bulk be chosen over the more mobile Skuse? That said, the pasting that Skusey has been taking must be having an effect as he was just scraping through after injury for the season opener against Harlequins. He certainly hasn’t had a chance to rest since then.
London Irish will need to play the best game of the season so far to even stay close to the Stade boys. Toulouse will offer the stiffest opposition of the season; I’m tempted to say thus far, but would venture the toughest of the season, full stop. Riding high in the top 14 in France, the Heineken Cup veterans surely fear nobody at home. Now that they are on the back of a defeat by Irish provincial side, Ulster, they will be even more fired up and determined not to lose on their own turf.
To win in Stade Wallon will probably require the win it ugly approach (see Munster for reference), boot the pill into their 22, try to nick the resulting lineout, tackle like demons and play the game in their 22. It isn’t pretty but if it sneaks a win, none of the travelling contingent will be complaining. Barry at 10 for this, with loads of line kicking at Sunbury this week. General Catt will probably start at 12, I did wonder whether Mike would be match fit having had the long lay off and thus it was proven to be on Friday night. The back line does at least have shape and organisation when Mike is on the park.
Keeping the ball away from the Stade Toulousain wing combination of Gareth Thomas and Vincent Clerc must be a priority. Will Topsy find his tackling hands? Will Delon get a start after his well-won try against Llanelli?
There are so many questions and talking points amongst the supporters, let alone the management team. A total commitment, gameplan and sheer passion will be required for the whole game in La Belle France to achieve the desired result for the Exiles.
Last edited by Loobs
on Mon Oct 23, 2006 4:33 pm, edited 3 times in total.