European Rugby Champions Cup Final

The anticipation is palpable as Leinster and Stade Toulousain prepare to clash in the European Rugby Champions Cup final on Saturday, May 25, 2024, at the iconic Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.

This titanic battle between two of the most storied clubs in European rugby promises to be a thrilling spectacle, showcasing the highest levels of skill, strategy, and raw athleticism. These two have a strong connection with numerous big clashes over recent years with clashes in the semi finals of the last two seasons of the Champions Cup. Leinster beat their French opponents twice in a row, in 2022 and in 2023 but on both occasions they went on to lose the finals against another French team, Racing 92. The Irish side also knocked Stade Toulousain out at the same stage in 2019 and the last time the French team beat their Irish opponents was in 2018.

Toulouse are the more recent winners of the tournament however, as they won the title back in 2021, winning an all French final against La Rochelle at Twickenham. The last time Leinster tasted victory was in 2018 when they got the better of another French side, La Rochelle. Since the tournament was rebranded to the Champions Cup in the 2014/15 season it has been won four times by English teams, four times by French sides and once by Leinster with Saracens being the most successful overall with their three titles. 

The knockout rounds

In the knockout stages, Leinster started off with a relatively straightforward win over English team Leicester and they played another home tie against last season’s winners La Rochelle in the quarter-finals, running out impressive 40-13 winners. The semi-final was a lot closer as they were pushed all the way by English Premiership leaders Northampton, eventually winning by 20 points to 17. Stade Toulousain kicked off their knockout rounds with a comprehensive win over fellow Ligue 1 side Racing 92 before another dominant win over English side Exeter Chiefs. Semi-final opponents Harlequins were making their first ever appearance in a Champions Cup semi-final and put up a good fight before the French team made the most of home advantage and won 38-26 to set up this fascinating final. 

Third time lucky for Leinster

Leinster, the dominant force from Ireland, comes into this final with a reputation for clinical precision and relentless efficiency. Under the astute leadership of head coach Leo Cullen and the strategic brilliance of South African coach Jaques Nienaber, Leinster has been a model of consistency throughout the tournament. Their path to the final has been marked by a series of commanding performances, including a notable quarter-final victory over reigning champions La Rochelle, a match where Leinster’s blend of power and flair proved too much for their opponents.

Key to Leinster’s success has been their formidable forward pack, led by the talismanic James Ryan and supported by the ever-reliable Caelan Doris. Their ability to dominate the set-piece and provide a solid platform for the backs has been instrumental. In the backline, the likes of Jamison Gibson Park, Robbie Henshaw, Hugo Keenan and James Lowe as well as the elusive running of Garry Ringrose, make Leinster a constant threat.

Leinster’s tactical approach, often revolving around quick ruck ball and exploiting the width of the field, has left many defences in disarray. Their ability to adapt and execute under pressure will be crucial against a Toulouse side known for their own brand of expansive rugby.

A fourth French Champion in a row?

Stade Toulousain, the pride of French rugby, brings a contrasting yet equally effective style to the table. Known for their flamboyant attacking play and physicality, Toulouse is a team that thrives on creating opportunities from broken play. Coached by Ugo Mola, Toulouse has a rich history in the competition, and their journey to the final has been equally impressive, highlighted by a dramatic semi-final win over Londoners Harlequins.

The heartbeat of Toulouse’s game lies in their dynamic half-back pairing of Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack. Dupont, often regarded as the best scrum-half in the world, combines sharp decision-making with a sniping running game that can turn a match on its head. Ntamack’s versatility and kicking prowess complement Dupont perfectly, creating a half-back axis that can unlock even the most stringent defences.

Upfront, Toulouse boasts a powerful pack with the likes of Julien Marchand and Cyril Baille providing the muscle and grit required to battle Leinster’s formidable forwards. Their backline, featuring the likes of Blair Kinghorn and the ever-dangerous Thomas Ramos, is capable of scoring from anywhere on the field, making Toulouse a team that can never be written off, regardless of the scoreline.

Tactical Battle and Key Match-Ups

The final will be a fascinating contest of contrasting styles and tactical nous. Leinster’s structured and disciplined approach will be pitted against Toulouse’s flair and unpredictability. Key match-ups across the park will likely decide the outcome.

In the forwards, the battle between James Ryan and Thibaud Flament in the second row will be pivotal. Both players are known for their work rate and lineout prowess. The back row contest, featuring Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris against Toulouse’s Francois Cros and Anthony Jelonch, promises to be a bruising encounter that could tilt the balance at the breakdown.

In the backline, the duel between Jamison Gibson-Park and Antoine Dupont will be a focal point. Both have impressive experience and game management. Similarly, the clash between Garry Ringrose and Pita Ahki in the centres will be crucial in determining which team can gain the upper hand in midfield.

Picking a winner and placing a bet 

There is very little to choose between these two giants of European Rugby. At the time of writing, it is the Irish side who are slight favourites at 1.85. If unable to pick a winner then the most fun one can have is in trying to predict a tryscorer. Antoine Dupont is a man for the big occasion and for the Irish it is the wingers Keenan and Lowe that are the most appealing. 

As Leinster and Stade Toulousain prepare to write the next chapter in European rugby history, fans around the world can look forward to a match that epitomises the spirit and excitement of the Champions Cup. Whether it’s Leinster’s quest for another title or Toulouse’s bid to reclaim their throne, the final at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium promises to be a memorable occasion filled with passion, skill, and the very best that rugby has to offer. As the two giants collide, only one will emerge victorious, but both will undoubtedly leave everything on the field in the pursuit of glory.

Last updated: 23.05.24