By News Team
21st May 2021
The biggest game in European club rugby is upon us, and after a topsy-turvy route here, Twickenham will host the clash between two French heavyweights, La Rochelle and Toulouse.
While it’s Toulouse’s seventh final appearance, it marks a debut for La Rochelle in what is set to be a thrilling affair. We preview the 2021 European Rugby Champions Cup final below.
Toulouse to return to top of tree with fifth win?
One of club rugby’s most famous outfits, Toulouse come into this year’s showpiece event having made their first European final since 2010, as they search for a record-breaking fifth win in this competition, breaking their current tie with Leinster. In the rejigged knockout round, they’ve ground out impressive results, beating Munster at Thomond Park, before coolly dispatching both Clermont and Bordeaux, both times scoring 21 points in the process.
A squad boasting a who’s who of international rugby stars, Toulouse can call upon the power of forwards Rory Arnold, Jerome Kaino and Cyril Baille, as well as an electric backline containing World Cup winner Cheslin Kolbe and French sensations Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack. With so many weapons at their disposal, Toulouse go to Twickenham as the 4/6 favourites, while the handicap sits at just three points.
La Rochelle to rise to the occasion?
La Rochelle, meanwhile, have never won a European final, nor a Top 14 title. This season, they sit second in the league and just a point behind leaders Toulouse, and have the chance to win a historic double. Coached by legendary Irish fly-half Ronan O’Gara, the current La Rochelle squad has a blend of stellar national players in the forms of Gregory Alldritt, Jules Plisson and Brice Dulin, bolstered by leading overseas talents, such as Victor Vito, Dillyn Leyds and Will Skelton.
In their three knockout games so far this season, they have scored 104 points, despatching English and Irish duo Gloucester and Ulster, as well as leading Irish outfit Leinster with relative comfort. Despite this smooth journey to the final, La Rochelle are the 11/8 underdogs, and with a +3 handicap they are 10/11.
All signs point to it being a close affair, and with both sides eager for a league and cup double, gaining the victory in this one will also be a huge psychological boost. With plenty of points expected off the boot, it may be a low-scoring affair to start with as players grow into the game.
However, in the biggest moments, big players stand up, and Toulouse are littered with stellar talent, World Cup winners and crucially, a winning history. 2021 could be another storied chapter in this rugby club’s famous history, with them sneaking over the line for a fifth European Champions Cup victory.