Connacht’s “All Blacks” style of rugby is the perfect formula to beat Toulouse on Saturday, according to former Leinster and Ireland forward Aidan McCullen.
Last season’s Pro12 winners begin their Champions Cup campaign at home to the four-time Heineken Cup victors (5.30pm), having won back-to-back league ties as they ended a three-game losing streak.
Toulouse, for their part, are also experiencing mixed fortunes in the Top 14 where they sit in sixth with four wins and four losses so far.
“They are probably playing some of the best rugby in Ireland,” McCullen, who lined out for Toulouse in the 2005/06 season, told RTÉ Sport’s rugby podcast The Breakdown.
“They are playing the closest to the All Blacks [style] of an interprovincial side Ireland has ever produced, and that’s the way to beat Toulouse.
“It’s to go through them, not around them, not kicking for the corners, not safe, it’s to play them at the game they used to play.”
The two teams have history, most notably when Connacht won in Toulouse three years ago, while the French side gained revenge in the return fixture.
But McCullen, who won one international cap against Samoa in 2003, reckons that Pat Lam’s side can upset the odds and land another heavyweight blow on a side that contains Toby Flood, Gael Fickou, Luke McAlister, Florian Fritz, and Yoann Huget.
“I do think this is a banana skin for Toulouse,” McCullen (above) said.
“I think Toulouse won’t have done their homework as much. ‘These guys aren’t bad, you know’, that’ll be the kind of mindset.
“This is under the radar. [Connacht will] all raise their game.
“They came out of the blocks [against Ulster last week], playing that kind of [running rugby]. You could argue they are running it too much, taking too many risks, but when that becomes your culture then it’s okay.
“It’s why they won last year. It’s so essential to have the backing of the coach, to have the bravery of the coach.”