Heineken Cup semi-final: Toulouse v Leinster, Saturday, Le Stadium, 3.45, Live, Sky Sports 1, 3.00, Referee Nigel Owens (Wales)
"A good kick up the hole," was how Leinster defence coach Kurt McQuilkin delicately summed up Leinster's defeat to Connacht on Wednesday night. Any notions they had of coasting into this semi-final were dynamited by Michael Bradley's side, along with the defeat of their second string side to Glasgow on Friday night, much to the irritation of all involved with the European champions. We can take it that minds scarcely needed focusing for a trip to the south of France beforehand; we can take it too that any chance there had been of complacency is gone now.
It's turning into an untidy last few weeks of the season for Leinster. Not disastrous yet or even too dramatic, just a bit trying and annoying. They've been far and away the best team in the Magners all season and yet they still haven't knifed a home semi-final to the wall. They roundly accept that Clermont Auvergne had them in the guillotine a fortnight ago but the blade got jammed on its way down. Not that any of this matters yet, but it might catch up with them.
It would be overdoing it to call them injury-ravaged but they're not having the smoothest path. Of their first-choice set of backs, only Eoin Reddan and Isa Nacewa go into next Saturday niggle-free. Rob Kearney is rated probable to make it back in time, with the sainted trio of Brian O'Driscoll, Gordon D'Arcy and Shane Horgan (212 Heineken games between them) all carrying knocks but certain to play. The big imponderable is Jonathan Sexton, obviously. At the minute Leinster can't say whether he's any better than a 50/50 to play.
With him, Leinster have plenty going for them against Toulouse. The French side's teamsheet could be used to scare any opposition coach before bedtime – their starting 15-to-9 alone against Stade in the quarter-final read Poitrenaud-Clerc-Fritz-Jauzion-Heymans-Skrela-Kelleher – but they haven't been tearing up many trees in the Top 14 this season. Not counting yesterday's encounter with Castres, they've lost 10 games in their domestic league, something that has happened only one other time in the last decade.
Still, given home advantage, a possibly Sexton-less Leinster and Guy Noves's declaration that they're counting Europe above the Top 14 for the remainder of the season, it's difficult to see them spilling this one.