Rory Arnold on his relief at not seeing red for Zebo foul and how discipline is key against Leinster

Toulouse’s Rory Arnold leaves the field after being shown a yellow card for a foul on Munster’s Simon Zebo at the Aviva Stadium (Image: ©INPHO/Ben Brady)

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RORY Arnold admits he was lucky not to see red against Munster – and warns that a card shown to a player on Saturday could put either Toulouse or Leinster into the Champions Cup final.

The big Aussie lock lined up Simon Zebo in the 51st minute at the Aviva Stadium last Saturday and as the Corkman off-loaded to Joey Carbery, Arnold lifted Zebo in the tackle and sent him crashing head first to the ground.

Former Leinster and Ireland star Gordon D'Arcy claimed earlier this week that Arnold's tip tackle should have resulted in a dismissal and that would have made all the difference in their quarter-final that went to extra time and penalty kicks.

Speaking yesterday, Arnold confessed he was worried that the card shown to him by ref Luke Pearce might have been red rather than yellow.

“I was, to be honest," said the 31-year-old. "When they slowed it down, there wasn’t much in it. I definitely got that one wrong.

"Yeah, if I was shown red then, it would definitely drastically changed the outcome of that game. I was very lucky there and I need to be better around that collision zone."

Toulouse eventually prevailed to set up this mouth-watering clash of two traditional European powerhouses.

Arnold's team has won the competition on a record five occasions, including last season, while Leinster have lifted the Champions Cup four times, most recently in 2018.

But with such an emphasis put now on discipline, that could be the deciding factor between two teams that look closely matched in the tale of the tape.

“Absolutely, these big games are usually quite close," said Arnold, who hails from Wagga Wagga.

"There is nothing between these teams. So a yellow card or red card, it will be devastating if a team gives it away, especially a red card."

Toulouse made the journey to Dublin on Friday last week ahead of the Munster game and, after such a punishing encounter, have made the decision to make the trip 24 hours earlier this time so will arrive today.

One of the main factors will be how ready the Top 14 giants are to go again in such a high intensity fixture just a week on.

As for how his body is recovering, Arnold conceded, "It's a bit fatigued" but adrenaline will get Toulouse through now as they prepare for their fourth Champions Cup semi-final in a row.

The second row, who is in his second year with Toulouse, spoke of the excitement of the club being in a 14th semi-final on this stage.

"What a game last weekend," he added. "It's devastating for Munster to lose like that, but there can only be one winner and we were lucky enough to get that result. We have to regroup, go back there again, and get the job done.

"Last year was such a special year and I was lucky enough to do it alongside my brother, it was something I’ll never forget, but that was last year.

Toulouse's Romain Ntamack and Rory Arnold in their 2021 Champions Cup final victory over La Rochelle at Twickenham
(Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie)

"Now we’re in a similar position we’ve got another couple of games to go – and we’re under no illusions to how big this weekend is for us and if we want to do it again.

"I think this weekend’s the biggest test for us.”

Coincidentally this will be the third time in a row in the tournament that Toulouse have to go to Ireland to win.

They did it against Ulster when they made up a round of 16 first leg deficit in Belfast to win by a point, then mustered up last week's victory in unusual circumstances.

Now having to face a Leinster team that he describes as "a step up" and "the benchmark" for Irish club rugby, Arnold said: "To be the best you've got to beat the best, and we've definitely had some tough teams on the way to this semi-final.

"It's no different this weekend, they're a world class team. I'm expecting more people there this week, a full stadium, and I can't wait, it's exciting times.

"They've got internationals scattered across their 23, and it's going to add that Test match feel this weekend, that's for sure.

"The pressure is on. We got the title last season, yeah, but the pressure is on us to see if we can do it again."

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