x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Cheika aims not to lose in Toulouse

Michael Cheika, the Leinster head coach, has braced his side for their defining Heineken Cup contest by declaring the outcome will be determined by willpower.

Michael Cheika, the Leinster head coach, has braced his side for their defining Heineken Cup contest by declaring the outcome will be determined by willpower. The champions travel to tournament favourites Toulouse for today's semi-final at Le Stadium. The French side are perceived as the masters of Europe as they seek to be crowned winners for a fourth time and are making their ninth appearance in the last four.

Losing their Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton because of a fractured jaw has hurt Leinster's chances, but Cheika believes resolve in the face of adversity will carry them through to the final on May 22 at the Stade de France. "We've got to know that this is the biggest battle we'll ever have. Once you acknowledge that you are able to get yourself ready for it," said the Australian. "And then, once you're ready for it, there's a good chance that you're going to perform. That gets you into the match and then if you get a bit of luck too, you might win. I think the experiences of last year will help us because we know what it takes."

Sexton has been forced to concede defeat in his race to recover from the injury sustained in the quarter-final against Clermont three weeks ago, and Shaun Berne will deputise. However, Sexton's Ireland teammate Rob Kearney has overcome an ankle injury and starts at full-back. "Jonny was desperate to play and we gave him every opportunity," said Cheika. "But we felt it was too big a risk." Toulouse scrum-half Byron Kelleher is looking forward to the match-up between Yannick Jauzion and Brian O'Driscoll at centre.

He said: "Leinster are a very good team - they showed that in the quarter-finals - and Brian O'Driscoll is a world-class player. We have Yannick Jauzion and if you look across Europe you won't see two better centres." * PA Sport