Challenge Cup decider: Toulon and Lyon ready to lock horns

Challenge Cup decider: Toulon and Lyon ready to lock horns

The Challenge Cup is set to culminate in an all-French affair as Lyon host Toulon at Stade Velodrome on Friday evening. 


It will be Lyon’s first involvement in a European final in the club’s history and Director of Rugby, Pierre Mignoni, this week highlighted how significant a win would be for team and supporters alike. 


“A victory would validate a lot of work for several years,” he said. “A title is important in the construction of a club. This final has real value. It would be great for the future. 


“This would allow players to become even more aware of their potential. I often tell them that we are capable of doing incredible things. This is what we will have to do on Friday night.” 


Mignoni also expressed excitement regarding the festive atmosphere created in the Velodrome. 


“The Velodrome is a fabulous stadium,” he said. “This final a party. We just need the players to be happy to participate in this event. But not only [this]. We will have to act from the kick-off and not ask ourselves ten thousand questions.” 


Lyon face a tough assignment, especially considering that their record against Toulon this season is less than flattering – the most recent fixture ending in a 43-10 drubbing. 


However, Mignoni believes his charges will be better prepared this time around, having learnt from the previous encounters. 


“The last confrontation was not at all to our advantage,” he said. “We didn’t recognize each other too much. Accidents happen. It is a thing of the past. This match hurt us, but also did us good for the future. 


“We have a lot of experienced boys who are there to take the pressure. But it’s a positive pressure to play this kind of game. 


“A final is 50/50. What is certain is that we will have to start this game well, be present from the kick-off and keep the confidence we have had throughout this season.” 


Lyon flanker Dylan Cretin has urged his team not to overlook the enjoyment of being involved in the final. 


“Everyone is very excited to [play] Friday night, you have to enjoy all these moments,” he said. “We will try to let ourselves be carried away until the kick-off at 21:00. 


European Professional Club Rugby | Cretin wants Lyon to enjoy final

“What is certain is that we will be on the field without feeling more pressure than that, except to show our best face. 


“We have certainties since the beginning of the year. We based ourselves on what we know how to do, what we do well. But this weekend, we will have to do it very well. 


“When the smell of the final is near, we will have more and more desire. Since the beginning of the season, the Challenge Cup has been one of our objectives. 


“We’re 80 minutes away from winning a trophy, and it’s never too early for that.” 


One of Toulon’s stand-out performers of late has been Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth, who believes the game will be a tight affair, possibly decided by asingle kick. 


“I don’t think we want to change too much tomorrow. I think we just want to focus on the basics, do the basics well, scrumming, lineouts, mauling. Obviously, a good kicking game. 


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“It’s going to be a great match-up, it’s going to be a good contest and it’s going to be finals rugby. I think it might be won in the last minute by a drop-goal or penalty. 


“Hopefully we’ll be on the winning side. We are well prepared, and I think the guys are really excited for tomorrow.” 


Key Facts: 


  • This will be the third meeting between Lyon and RC Toulon in the EPCR Challenge Cup, with Toulon winning both previous fixtures by an average of 13 points; this will be the seventh time that an EPCR Challenge Cup final has been contested by two French sides.  


  • Lyon have reached their first European final having won all seven of their games in this season’s EPCR Challenge Cup, scoring an average of 30 points per match in the process; they have only conceded over 18 points in just one of their last five matches in the competition.


  • RC Toulon are aiming to become just the fifth side to win both the Heineken Champions Cup and the EPCR Challenge Cup after Bath Rugby, Northampton Saints, Leinster Rugby and Wasps; the TOP 14 club have lifted the Heineken Champions Cup trophy on three occasions (2012/13, 2013/14 and 2014/15).


  • This will be RC Toulon’s fourth appearance in an EPCR Challenge Cup final, the joint most of any club alongside ASM Clermont Auvergne, Bath Rugby, Harlequins and Gloucester Rugby; however, they have lost each of their previous three finals, the joint most of any side (also Bath Rugby).


  • RC Toulon have won five of their six games in this season’s EPCR Challenge Cup (L1); however, their only loss came against TOP 14 opposition (17-20 v Biarritz Olympique); they had won eight of their last nine games against fellow French opposition prior to their defeat against Biarritz (L1).


  • Only Glasgow (13) have averaged more 22 entries per game than Lyon (12.7) in the EPCR Challenge Cup this season, while no side has conceded fewer 22 entries than RC Toulon in the competition in 2021/22 (7 per game).


  • Lyon boast the best ruck success rate in this season’s EPCR Challenge Cup (97%) while they’ve also averaged the most line breaks (6.6), defenders beaten (25.1) and offloads per game (12.7) in the competition in 2021/22.


  • Only four players have made more than five line breaks in this season’s EPCR Challenge Cup and they all play for Lyon: Leo Berdeu (7), Ethan Dumortier (6), Davit Niniashvili (6) and Clement Laporte (6). Niniashvilli has also completed more offloads (11) and made more carry meters than any other player this term (503).


  • No player has made more dominant tackles in this season’s EPCR Challenge Cup than RC Toulon’s Charles Ollivon (5); Ollivon made 18 successful tackles against Saracens in the last round, the most of any player in the semi-finals.


  • Toulon’s Gabin Villiere has scored four tries in four appearances in the EPCR Challenge Cup this season, including a brace in the semi-final against Saracens, only Gloucester’s Santiago Socino (5) has scored more tries this season; Villiere has also made six breakdown steals in the competition this season, two more than the next best back in that ranking, his teammate Baptiste Serin (4).

RC Toulon


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