Jamie Heaslip says Leinster experience vital against Heineken Cup champions Toulon
Last Updated: 05/04/14 3:37pm
Leinster captain Jamie Heaslip insists the European heavyweights' experience will be key when they travel to face defending Heineken Cup champions Toulon on Sunday.
Heaslip has tasted European Cup success three times with Leinster in 2009, 2011 and 2012 but travels to the south of France warily with their opponents unbeaten in 10 Heineken Cup home matches at Stade Felix Mayol.
The Ireland No 8 said: "We've had some whopper games over the last couple of years in the knockout stages, both home and away," Heaslip said.
"We've had a lot of good experience in Europe and we have all that experience to call on, but it's about being the best we can be on the day.
"We know what it is going to take because we've been there and experienced big away games in Europe, especially in France."
Fly-half Jonny Wilkinson skippers Toulon in what looks set to be his last European game before retirement if the French club lose and the home side are without injured international locks Ali Williams (New Zealand) and Bakkies Botha (South Africa).
Brian O'Driscoll also faces a Heineken farewell should the big-spending French club triumph, while most attention will focus on Wilkinson and O'Driscoll facing each other for the final time before both hang up their boots though Heaslip knows the title holders are far from being a one-man team.
"Their whole team is littered with international players of pretty high calibre," he added.
"Whoever they pick, it's going to be a bit of a challenge for us. They have got really skillful, hard quality players who run hard, tackle hard and ruck hard.
"These are games you look forward to and get excited about because you are going up against a good quality side. This is why you play rugby.
"Everyone in this club knows what it takes to go the whole way and win the competition, so we are fully aware of the standard we're going to have to bring to the game."
Toulon coach Bernard Laporte warned that neither he or his side would take victory for granted though.
He said: "Leinster have lots of very strong players.
"They have won three Heineken Cups and are almost always in the last four of the competition, so it's very exciting to play a team like that.
"If you lose field position, it's very hard to get it back because they know what to do to keep going forward. They know when and how to kick the ball, and once they are ahead on the scoreboard it's very hard to come back."
Watch Toulon v Leinster live on Sky Sports HD3 from 4pm on Sunday