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European Champions Cup | Final
May 25, 2024 at 2.45pm UK
Lebel (82')

Preview: Leinster vs. Toulouse - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Saturday's European Champions Cup clash between Leinster and Toulouse, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Leinster and Toulouse will prepare to do battle in the eagerly anticipated European Rugby Champions Cup, which is set to take place at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Leinster sought redemption for past heartbreaks by delivering a commanding performance, hammering La Rochelle in the quarter-finals, while Toulouse have been displaying their characteristic sparkling form, defeating Racing 92, Exeter Chiefs and then Harlequins to secure a spot in the final.

Match preview

Leinster's Noel Reid celebrates scoring a try with teammates against Wasps on January 20, 2019© Reuters

In recent years, Leinster, much like the Irish national team, have consistently dominated in all competitions they have participated in, only to falter in the playoffs. However, with a resounding 40-13 victory over La Rochelle in the quarter-finals, they seem poised to dispel any notion of being choke artists.

For the third consecutive year, the Irish side have reached the final, yet they have suffered defeats at the hands of La Rochelle in the past two seasons, losing by just one point a year ago and by three in 2022. Additionally, they ended up as runners-up in 2019, falling short against Saracens.

Last year, Leinster made history by becoming the first team since the formation of the Champions Cup to lose successive finals. Another defeat in a major final would only serve to emphasize the feeling of unfulfilled potential within this group.

However, this season was destined to be a departure from the norm for Leinster. Senior coach Stuart Lancaster, a pivotal figure in the club's 2018 European triumph, departed for Racing 92, while talismanic fly-half Johnny Sexton retired following the World Cup. Despite this, they have taken their performances up a notch and are firing on all cylinders.

The Irish province have secured European club rugby's top prize four times, but they are arguably in their best form in recent memory, especially since Leo Cullen added Springbok World Cup winner Jacques Nienaber to his coaching staff this season.

Leinster's James Ryan pictured in December 2018© Reuters

Meanwhile, Toulouse entered the Champions Cup in December as the favourite to emerge with the title, narrowly ahead of their opponents here. They hold the record for the joint-most Champions Cups won by any European club.

Additionally, of the four most prominent leagues in the world - the Gallagher Premiership, the United Rugby Championship, the Top 14 and the Southern Hemisphere's Super Rugby - no team has secured more domestic league titles than Toulouse. They clinched the title 22 times since 1912, including 10 times since 1996.

Against Harlequins in this year's semi-final, Toulouse displayed moments of brilliance and were virtually unplayable at times. Their integration of forwards and backs was seamless, and with an impressive average of 6.6 tries per game in the competition this season, Leinster will need to bring their A-game here to remain competitive.

Between 1996 and 2010, Toulouse secured four Champions Cup titles. However, they then faced an 11-year dry spell during which clubs like Leinster and Toulon emerged as dominant forces in the Champions Cup arena.

In 2021, they clinched Champions Cup victory again by defeating their Top 14 counterpart La Rochelle at Twickenham Stadium. The talented Antoine Dupont played a pivotal role in securing the win and was awarded the prestigious Champions Cup Player of the Year title, but in the past two seasons, Toulouse's journey in the tournament ended in the knockout stage at the hands of their opponents in this one.

Throughout the pool stage, these two teams emerged as the top contenders, with Northampton closely trailing in third place. Moreover, both teams boast some of the world's finest players in every position but Toulouse are now aiming to solidify their status as the out-and-out most successful side in this competition, and if everything falls into place, they could conclude the month as winners of both the Top 14 and Champions Cup titles.

Leinster European Champions Cup form:

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Toulouse European Champions Cup form:

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Team News

France's Antoine Dupont receives medical attention after sustaining an injury on September 21, 2023© Reuters

Cullen has confirmed that Garry Ringrose is in a race to regain full fitness for the upcoming weekend fixture. Ringrose has not started a game since sustaining a shoulder injury during the Champions Cup pool victory over Leicester Tigers back in January.

Despite having not played since the third game of the Six Nations due to a bicep injury sustained during Ireland training, co-captain James Ryan is in contention for selection. Additionally, Hugo Keenan, who has returned from a period on the sidelines, is also in the mix for selection.

Leinster's lineup is likely to include the dynamic presence of Josh van der Flier in the back row, Dan Sheehan at hooker, James Lowe on the wing, and the electrifying scrumhalf Jamison Gibson-Park.

Center Santiago Chocobares was cited for a dangerous tackle on Quins' centre Luke Northmore during Toulouse's win on May 5. While he was expected to remain banned for three weeks, a disciplinary hearing ruled that he will be given the opportunity to return a week earlier if he applies for and successfully completes a World Rugby coaching intervention, which would make him eligible for selection in this match.

Toulouse boast a lineup comprising over 10 players from the French Rugby National team, along with Blair Kinghorn, a member of the Scottish national team. Their squad will be captained by Dupont, who leads the Champions Cup statistics in carries (110) and offloads (20), ranks second in both metres gained (534) and line breaks (13), and remarkably, as a scrumhalf, shares third place for turnovers with nine.

Leinster predicted starting lineup: 15 Ciaran Frawley, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Jamie Osborne, 11 James Lowe, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Caelan Doris (c), 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Ryan Baird, 5 Joe McCarthy, 4 Ross Molony, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Dan Sheehan, 1 Andrew Porter

Replacements: 16 Ronan Kelleher, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Michael Ala'alatoa, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Harry Byrne, 23 Jimmy O'Brien

Toulouse predicted starting lineup: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Juan Cruz Mallia, 13 Paul Costes, 12 Pita Ahki, 11 Matthis Lebel, 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Antoine Dupont (c), 8 Alexandre Roumat, 7 Jack Willis, 6 Francois Cros, 5 Thibaud Flament, 4 Emmanuel Meafou, 3 Dorian Aldegheri, 2 Peato Mauvaka, 1 Cyril Baille

Replacements: 16 Julien Marchand, 17 Rodrigue Neti, 18 Joel Merkler, 19 Richie Arnold, 20 Mathis Castro Ferreira, 21 Paul Graou, 22 Santiago Chocobares, 23 Thomas Ramos

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We say: Leinster 37-32 Toulouse

Although Toulouse leads in various statistical categories in this competition, including points, tries, carries, metres gained, and clean breaks, they face a formidable challenge in breaking down the transformed Leinster defence under the guidance of World Cup winner Jacques Nienaber, whose wealth of experience in winning games on the biggest stages could prove to be a decisive factor.

We are anticipating an intense and closely contested match this weekend, which genuinely could go either way, but we are going with the Irish outfit to edge it by a slender margin.

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