Jamie Heaslip believes previous European experience will be vital against Toulon and that the Leinster supporters can play a key role in the Stade Mayol…

Jamie Heaslip has fond memories of travelling to France to face a well-fancied team on their home ground and coming away with a win. 

Leinster travelled to Toulouse for a Heineken Cup Quarter-final in April 2006 in Heaslip’s breakthrough year at Leinster. The French side were the favourites but Leinster defied the odds, scoring four tries in a 41-35 win. 

“In my first year against Toulouse in the quarter-finals we weren’t given a huge chance again and we pulled it out of the bag,” Heaslip says.

“We’ve had some whopper games over the last couple of years in Europe, both home and away. We’ve got a lot of good experience. We’ve got all these big games and experience to call on but when it boils down to it it’s about being the best we can be on the day.”

Leinster will need to draw on that experience against a Toulon team that, according to Heaslip, is “littered with international players of a pretty high calibre”.

The more experienced members of the squad such as Healip will also have to pass on that knowledge and experience to the younger squad members who, like Heaslip back in 2006, are taking their first steps into the Senior team setup at the province.

“You know you’ve been there and you’ve experienced big games in Europe away. You know what it’s going to take and you try and let people know that haven’t experienced it. But that’s it and you just park it. You worry about getting the plays right and getting your job right and worry about their threats and getting our shape right.

“During the week you’re trying to set the tone for people. At this stage, with the games we’ve played in Europe already this season, most guys, they know what it takes, and anyone in this club knows what it takes to go the whole way and win the competition.”

As important as experience is to the team, Heaslip believes the Leinster supporters that will be in the Stade Mayol on Sunday evening will play a key role in driving their team forward. 

“You’re in their (Toulon’s) backyard and they’re quite proud of their stadium. They’re going to be pretty loud, although I think we have three or four thousand supporters coming over. Even though they’re going to be spread out they’ll be pretty vocal. Hopefully it will, at times, feel a little bit like a home game.”

A victory over a strong Toulon team would mean that there will be more European occasions for Leinster supporters to enjoy this season. A win against Toulon would set up a semi-final against Munster in the Aviva Stadium at the end of April, a prospect supporters and players alike will relish.

“Hopefully we’ve got two more after this week in Europe and a couple of more in the Rabo. It’s the best time of the season. People are all excited about going out to the south of France for this game. If we do a job then hopefully we’ll get the support when we go back home. It’s why you play rugby playing, these big games.”