McAlister expecting Harlequins backlash

Former All Black Luke McAlister has issued rivals a warning by saying that his new team Toulouse will only get better as the Heineken Cup progresses.

McAlister played for Toulouse on the weekend when they brought an abrupt end to Harlequins 14-match winning start to the season with an emphatic 21-10 Round 3 victory at Twickenham Stoop last Friday.

The showdown between the pacesetters in the English and French domestic tournaments saw Toulouse move four points clear at the top of Pool 6 with the return leg in the intimidating and raucous atmosphere of Le Stadium to follow on Sunday afternoon.

“This was a big one for us – Harlequins were on a bit of a roll with 14 from 14 so to knock them off was big for us,” he said.

“Our forwards gave us some good ball to work with, and we were very lucky in that regard, and that enabled us to score two good tries.

“However, it is going to be difficult next week when they come to our ground because they are going to be putting it all in so this week we have to concentrate on our physicality because Harlequins are a very physical side so we have to turn up on Sunday and do the job.

“We all know we have to win at home so we have a really big game this weekend. But we also know that Gloucester came over and nearly beat us at home so while it is going to be difficult against Harlequins we are looking forward to the challenge.

“Harlequins are good at building phases so it was a big deal for us to front up to them because they physically dominate a lot of teams in the Premiership.

“We then have two more hard games in January against Connacht and Gloucester so it is vitally important we win at Le Stadium and we will refocus on that this week.”

McAlister and Wallaby Luke Burgess are a new antipodean international half back partnership with the four times Heineken Cup champions and after just three games together the signs are becoming ominous for the rest.

“I am new to the club so the Toulouse history is all sort of new to me and although they have done well in the past, that is for sure, this is a new team and with a lot of guys coming back from the World Cup we are still integrating everyone into the side,” said McAlister.

“But I think we are now starting to hit our straps and, although it took us a few weeks to get going, we played well against Toulon before the Harlequins game and the confidence is growing.

“We need to keep building as a team and with a new combination at 9/10 with Luke Burgess and myself – we had not played together before and this was only our third game together – it is going to take time.

“But we definitely want to create some sort of legacy here and I am loving life in Toulouse. It is a lot different from home but we are embracing the French culture and enjoying ourselves.”

McAlister is ideally placed to compare the different styles between English and French club rugby, having played in both the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup for Sale Sharks, and highlights the different weather conditions as a major contributing factor.

“The Premiership is pretty physical, the contacts are bigger but perhaps the pace of the game is a bit slower,” he said.

“In France the game is pretty quick – and of course the weather also determines how the game is played in each country.”

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