Nathan Hines sends out defiant message to Toulouse

SCOTLAND international Nathan Hines has warned Toulouse his Leinster team-mates are determined to reach the Heineken Cup final at the expense of the three-time champions.

The Irish province travel to the south of France to face Toulouse in today's semi-final.

Hines told tournament website "If we can replicate our practice in Toulouse I'm sure we will do well on the day. We will have to make sure our set-piece and scrum are strong and our tactics won't change. If we can win clean ball up front then it will make life much easier for us as Toulouse are a very good team with a lot of ball players. They have many clever and dangerous players, particularly in their back three so we will have to be strong defensively to shut them down."

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Leinster have been dealt a major blow after Jonathan Sexton, who booted Michael Cheika's men to a historic final win over Leicester Tigers in Edinburgh last season, was ruled out of the tie after failing to recover from a fractured jaw.

Shaun Berne will deputise at fly-half for the Irish giants but Australian-born Hines believes his team-mates are peaking at just the right time of the season to maintain their quest for further silverware.

"A lot of the lads have been injured or rested in the past ten days so everyone has had a break," added the former Edinburgh second row. "We are peaking for this game and training has been good this week. We could not have prepared any better for this challenge."

Despite the loss of Sexton and British Lions wing Luke Fitzgerald, who is out with a long-term knee injury, Leinster include fellow Lions Rob Kearney, Brian O'Driscoll and Jamie Heaslip for the mouth-watering contest.

Toulouse's former All Black scrum-half Byron Kelleher is eagerly awaiting the midfield duel between Brian O'Driscoll and Yannick Jauzion, Europe's two great centres of the last decade.

"Leinster are a very good team – they showed that in the quarter-finals – and Brian O'Driscoll is a world-class player. His performance against Clermont was exceptional," he said. "We have Yannick Jauzion and if you look across Europe you won't see two better centres."

Meanwhile, Ronan O'Gara will put his nervous energy to work in tomorrow's semi-final against Biarritz. The Munster fly-half will wear the captain's armband in the absence of the injured Paul O'Connell.

He said: "It's a big game and one we are excited about. As a young player, you may become fearful and nervous about these games. It's a Heineken Cup semi-final away from home against a Basque team so we know we are playing for big stakes."