The climax of the 2020-21 French Top 14 is fast approaching and, somewhat unsurprisingly, will be contested by Toulouse and La Rochelle.
La Rochelle will take to the pitch with the notion of revenge as it was the same opponents who denied them the Champions Cup title earlier this year at Twickenham.
Last weekend, La Rochelle despatched Racing 92 at Stade Marcel-Deflandre. Final score: 19-6.
Toulouse had a narrow victory over Bordeaux at Stade Toulousain to advance to the grand spectacle.
La Rochelle are up against it this weekend – taking the most successful team in French rugby history. However, Ronan O’Gara’s charges are no slouches themselves and have proved to be formidable opponents with a defence which can strangle the finest of attacks.
Toulouse suffered the misfortune of having the sublime service of Romain Ntamack ripped from their arsenal when the flyhalf was ruled out of the final with head injury. Thomas Ramos, however, has proved himself very capable in the number 10 jersey and has what it takes to get the Toulouse backs bubbling. His contest with the skilful Ihaia West will be something to savour.
The question which has no doubt been burning in the minds of the La Rochelle players and coaching staff is how they are possibly going to keep the enigmatic Antoine Dupont on a tight leash. The easiest answer is to starve the man of possession, but such a course of action will require the La Rochelle forwards to keep the Toulouse pack under the proverbial whip – far easier said than done. A significant amount of focus will have gone into choking space around the rucks – a favourite attacking platform of the sniping scrumhalf.
The teams are wonderfully matched and everything in the build-up to this game suggests a cracking final. The exchanges in the opening stages – especially amongst the forwards – will be brutal and relentless as the sides compete for the physical battle. With the tight nature of finals in mind, one hopes that the viewers will be treated to at least some of the brilliant running-rugby potential which both teams harbour in abundance.
The two best teams in France at it again – bring it on!