Leinster left last seasons loss in the past

Leinster left last seasons loss in the past

Leinster Rugby scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park believes that the Irish province have put their consecutive EPCR final losses behind them as they prepare to take on record five-time winners Stade Toulousain in Saturday’s Investec Champions Cup decider.

Twice the four-time champions have looked set for their fifth star as they opened up leads against Stade Rochelais, but twice they have surrendered those advantages to succumb 24-21 in 2022 and 27-26 last year. 

However, following the arrival of Jacques Nienaber as senior coach after he had guided South Africa to their World Cup success last autumn, Gibson-Park reckons Leinster Rugby now have the armoury to land that elusive fifth crown. 

“We’ve done our best in the last two finals, but this season we’ve put everything in trying to move forward with the arrival of some new coaches, who have changed a lot of things,” he said. “Jacques has a great personality and gives off positive energy to the squad.  

“We hope that our defensive system will make the difference in the final by disrupting a Toulouse team who like to run with the ball a lot. 

“The goal is to do better this year, but Toulouse are in great form, so we’re expecting a very difficult match.  

“It’s going to be a magnificent battle and we hope it will be a great spectacle for the spectators between two teams who have had a lot of success in this competition.” 

‘Toulouse have changed a lot’

Gibson-Park is aware that Leinster Rugby have an excellent recent record against Stade Toulousain in the knockout stages of EPCR’s elite competition, having won three successive semi-finals against them, but he cautioned against reading too much into those victories. 

“I suppose we’re confident because we’ve had some good results against Toulouse the last few seasons, but they have changed a lot since our last clash,” the Irish international pointed out. 

“They are the best team in the competition and have beaten everyone fairly comfortably this season. They manage to break down opposition defences with their impressive attacking game and players of international class, like Jack Willis and Pita Ahki. 

“They’re on fire at the moment and so I think they’ll arrive in London super-confident. It should be a very good match.” 

A contest within the contest will be Gibson-Park's battle with Stade Toulousain and France superstar Antoine Dupont, also a rival for the Investec Player of the Year Trophy. 

The New Zealand-born No.9 commented: “These are the moments you dream of in my position – he's the No.1 player, the best player in the world these last few seasons. It’s a huge challenge for players in our position. But it’s the team who are facing him.” 

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