Leinster v Stade Toulousain - teams and prediction

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CHAMPIONS CUP FINAL PREVIEW: Europe's two most successful teams will meet in the Champions Cup Final for the first time when Toulouse take on Leinster in London on Saturday.

Fourteen of the previous 28 finals have featured either the French side or the Irish provincial team.

Toulouse have lifted the Champions Cup trophy five times, including winning the inaugural 1996 Final, while Leinster have been kings of Europe on four occasions.

Both teams are full of world-class talent for the clash at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, with Toulouse boasting France stars Antoine Dupont, Romain Ntamack, Thomas Ramos and Cyril Baille.

A Leinster team full of Ireland internationals can call on James Lowe - a hat-trick hero in a tense 20-17 semifinal win over Northampton in Dublin - Jamison Gibson-Park, Caelan Doris and Tadhg Furlong.

"Toulouse are the standard bearers of the competition really," said Leinster boss Leo Cullen.

"Going back to the start of the competition, they were the ones out of the blocks first in terms of professionalism and you could see the set-up they had when the game went professional first.

"They were light years ahead of us, let's be honest. We sort of feel that we've been chasing them ever since."

'Pressure'


Leinster are bidding to avoid an unwanted treble, having lost the past two Champions Cup Finals to La Rochelle, the first by three points after conceding in the final moments in Marseille.

And last season they suffered more Champions Cup heartache when, after surging into an early 17-point lead in Dublin, they succumbed to another late score as a La Rochelle side coached by Munster and Ireland hero Ronan O'Gara again got the better of them.

"It's an amazing challenge," said Cullen of reaching the final once more.

"We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to get to this point and now we are there, so it's making sure that we deliver."

There is a sense that Leinster need to win if a team full of Ireland internationals are to avoid being regarded as nearly men.

But Ireland great Brian O'Driscoll believes Leinster are a more hardened outfit now that South Africa's World Cup-winning coach Jacques Nienaber is a member of his old club's backroom staff.

"The guy is a serial winner," said O'Driscoll.

"To be able to give all of your focus, everything in you, to a World Cup and then pick up three weeks later and put a new defensive system into a team that already had a good defence, and still get them to a final. That is great coaching."

Leinster are now without retired playmaker Johnny Sexton but the influential former Ireland flyhalf also missed last season's final through injury.

Ross Byrne, Sexton's successor in the Leinster No.10 shirt, was off target with several goal-kicks that would have put the Northampton result beyond doubt.

Such errors will likely be punished by a Toulouse team that defeated Harlequins 38-26 in their semifinal and have been in imperious European form all season.

Toulouse are gunning for revenge after losing three semifinals to Leinster since 2019, including clashes in the past two seasons.

"It'll be a dream final if we're lucky enough to win at the end," flyhalf Ntamack, 25, told AFP.

"Leinster haven't done us any favours in recent years.

"This generation wants to win everything, all the time," added Ntamack, whose father Emile Ntamack captained Toulouse to victory in the inaugural Champions Cup final 28 years ago.

"We all love this club. Most of us were brought up here and we're going to do everything we can to continue to make it grow."

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Prediction


@rugby365com: Toulouse by three points

Teams: 

Leinster: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Jamie Osborne, 11 James Lowe, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Caelan Doris (captain), 7 Will Connors, 6 Ryan Baird, 5 Jason Jenkins, 4 Joe McCarthy, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Dan Sheehan, 1 Andrew Porter
Replacements: 16 Rónan Kelleher, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Michael Ala'alatoa, 19 James Ryan, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Ciarán Frawley, 23 Josh van der Flier

Toulouse: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Juan Cruz Mallia, 13 Paul Costes, 12 Pita Ahki, 11 Matthis Lebel, 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Antoine Dupont (captain), 8 Alexandre Roumat, 7 Jack Willis, 6 François Cros, 5 Emmanuel Meafou, 4 Thibaud Flament, 3 Dorian Aldegheri, 2 Peato Mauvaka, 1 Cyril Baille
Replacements: 16 Julien Marchand, 17 Rodrigue Neti, 18 Joel Merkler, 19 Richie Arnold, 20 Joshua Brennan, 21 Paul Graou, 22 Santiago Chocobares, 23 Thomas Ramos

Date: Saturday, May 25
Venue: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London
Kick-off: 14:45 (13.45 GMT, 15.45 France time)
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant Referees: Karl Dickson (England) and Andrea Piardi (Italy)
TMO: Ian Tempest (England)

Source: AFP

 

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