Toulouse continues its European journey with an Irish accent. After their victories against Ulster and Munster since the start of the final phase, the Haut-Garonnais return to Dublin, this time to face Leinster, in the semi-finals of the Champions Cup, Saturday May 14 (live on France 2 and france.tv). The Toulousains, on alternating current since the start of the European season, will have to work to dominate an Irish team still undefeated on the ground in the competition (a defeat on green carpet due to the Covid against Montpellier). Franceinfo: sport takes stock of the keys to the meeting.
A duel of history
The first semi-final opposes the two most beautiful winners of the European scene. With five titles, Stade Toulousain is the most successful club in the history of the Champions Cup. The Irish follow him closely, with four titles, the last acquired in 2018. The two clubs will also play their 187th European match, more than any other team except Munster (190).
The most successful teams in the Champions Cup will face each other this Saturday
— Champions Cup France (@ChampionsCup_FR) May 11, 2022
Haut-Garonnais and Leinstermen have faced each other 12 times, for a perfectly balanced record (6 wins on each side). The last time was already in the semi-finals of the Champions Cup, in April 2019. Leinster then stifled Toulouse at the Aviva Stadium (30-12). Three years later, the Stadium has the opportunity to take its revenge.
Toulouse before money-time
Since the start of the final phase, Toulouse likes to take its time to validate its performance. In the Round of 16 against Ulster, Antoine Dupont’s 75th-minute saver’s try in the second leg allowed Ugo Mola’s men to turn the game around and qualify with a one-point lead over the whole of the two games (50-49). In the quarter-finals last weekend, Toulouse waited for an improbable penalty shootout to make the difference against Munster. “As a player or as a coach, this is one of the moments that will mark me for life.“, slipped Ugo Mola, the coach of the Rouge et Noir, in a press conference.
Against Leinster, best attack since the start of the competition (303 points), Toulouse will rather have an interest in unblocking the match as soon as possible, so as not to risk falling too far behind to fill, especially with the accumulated fatigue . But this mental strength which allowed them to reach the last four is an additional resource. “Psychologically, mentally, these are moments that wear out a little, but which are so good to take that you come out of it in the end with the banana and the desire to switch to the next week.“, believes the back and scorer Thomas Ramos.
The Rouge et Noir will be able to count on the players who have worn them all season, Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack (both scorers in the penalty shootout in Ireland) in the lead. Matthis Lebel, author of two tries in the quarter-finals, is also back in shape and could also weigh on the meeting.
Leinster solid but not invincible
Where Toulouse fought to the end with Munster, Leinster had a much calmer quarter-final against the English of Leicester. The case was folded in half time for the “Boys in blue” to score 20 points and get into orbit (23-14). With a large part of Irish internationals (Sexton, Furlong, Ryan, Gibson-Park…), dolphins of the Blues during the last Six Nations Tournament, they have relied since the start of the competition on a forward game , as evidenced by their 43 registered trials. “I am convinced that Leinster are the best team on the continent, with a very specific philosophy, which works.”believes Toulouse coach Ugo Mola.
All on Saturday!
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) May 11, 2022
In the league, the Irish nevertheless remain on two difficult trips to South Africa at the end of April, to the Sharks and the Stormers, concluded with two narrow defeats. If they traveled with a revamped team, to rest the most important players before the European deadlines, the Irish still showed that they were not invincible. Toulouse will also be able to draw inspiration from the style of the two South African franchises, which have bet on an iron defense (99 tackles on average) and good offensive efficiency (three tries in 20 minutes for the Stormers), to impose and continue to write its history.