Leinster-Toulouse, the shock of the Titans
Five European stars on the Toulouse side, four on the Irish side: the clash on Saturday (4:00 p.m. French time) at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin between the two most successful teams on the continent promises sparks.
Their paths had already crossed in 2019 at this stage of the competition, for a final victory for Leinster (30-12). But the golden generation of Stade Toulousain has since gained maturity and a few trophies, two Top14s and a European Cup.
“We learned a lot of things that day. Three years later, I think we are no longer the same and neither are they,” said head coach Ugo Mola, for whom the Irish are “goldsmiths of organization and structure”.
Main provider of the Clover XV, Leinster, impressive since the start of the competition, especially in the quarter last week in Leicester (23-14), “is one of the most beautiful teams in Europe”, greets the hooker and Toulouse captain Julien Marchand.
The reigning European champions were spared this week after a particularly physically and mentally demanding showdown against Munster, won after suspense and an improbable penalty shootout (4-2, 24-24 after extension).
“Toulouse is already an excellent team. So knowing that luck is on his side will give him a little something extra, the feeling that nothing can happen to him, ”says former Leinster third line Aidan McCullen, who passed through the Pink City during the 2005 season. -06.
Racing 92-La Rochelle: opposition of styles
The Franco-French duel on Sunday (4:00 p.m.) between the Racingmen, three times unfortunate finalists in the competition, and the Maritimes, vice-champions of Europe last year, is akin to a clash between two teams with diametrically opposed styles and who meet for the first time in the Champions Cup.
On the one hand, the ultra-powerful La Rochelle pack (Uini Atonio, Pierre Bourgarit, Grégory Alldritt, Danny Priso, Victor Vito…), on the other the Ile-de-France will-o’-the-wisps (Teddy Thomas, Finn Russell, Nolann le Garrec, Juan Imhoff, Max Spring…).
This match, relocated to the Bollaert stadium in Lens, in the Pas-de-Calais, due to the holding of a concert at the Arena de Nanterre and whose kick-off will be given by the star of the All Blacks Dan Carter , promises to be electric, but above all “very tight and very undecided” according to Henry Chavancy.
“It will be very difficult, against a formidable opponent who we know well”, the last confrontation between the two clubs having ended in late March with a resounding victory (19-0) at Marcel-Deflandre in the Top 14, believes still the center of Racing 92.
“We know that they are very strong in the physical challenge, they have a big packet of forwards and very strong players also behind”, so we will have to “raise our level of play”, he warns.
In La Rochelle, still fighting for a place as a play-off in the Top 14 while Racing 92 is almost certain to be in it, we also call ourselves “outsiders”. For Victor Vito, “we know that the Racing 92 players are the favorites”.
Because the Maritimes may not have lost only one European Cup meeting (out of their last eleven), “Sunday’s match will be the most complicated, with a lot of threats in this team, a difficult atmosphere and environment. “Said the New Zealand third line.
If the excitement is less than last year, more tinged with “maturity”, the motivation is however still there, assures the South African winger Raymond Rhule: “playing a second final in a row would be something crazy ! “.