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European Champions Cup Final Prediction: Leinster v Toulouse

The irresistible force meets the immovable object as Leinster and Toulouse collide in a mouth-watering European Champions Cup final at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

European Champions Cup Final

The irresistible force meets the immovable object as Leinster and Toulouse collide in a mouth-watering European Champions Cup final at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday (15:45 kick-off SA time), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

It’s a true clash of the titans as the two most successful teams in the tournament’s history face off after having topped their respective pools and marched into the winner-takes-all decider unbeaten

Leinster are desperate to get over the hump following heartbreaking losses to La Rochelle in the last two finals and are determined to secure their fifth title, while Toulouse are pursuing their record-extending sixth star like men possessed.

In a different guise, it’s almost the World Cup final those up north wanted last year with so many Irish and French Test stars making up the respective line-ups. Something has to give in what’s as close to a pick ‘em as you get in a grand finale.

Leinster, like the Irish national team, have in recent years consistently been the best team in all competitions they’ve played in only to stumble in the playoffs. Having gained revenge on La Rochelle by ending their reign with a 40-13 trouncing in the quarter-finals, they’re out to complete the mission and prove they’re not choke artists. As for Toulouse, they’re back in the final for the first time since the 2020-2021 campaign when they defeated La Rochelle 22-17 at Twickenham.

While we undoubtedly have the two best teams fittingly meeting in the final, neither had it all their way in the semi-finals. A James Lowe hat-trick – the first-ever in a final-four fixture – helped Leinster pip the Northampton Saints 20-17 in front of a record crowd of 82,300 at Croke Park while Toulouse were also made to sweat in their 38-26 victory over Harlequins.

Leinster are ferocious, fast, fluid and intense. They boast skilled ball players from 1 to 23 and constantly shift the point of attack. Their ruck speed and relentlessness are unmatched, all of which have seen them make by far the most passes this season with 1,088, a full 154 ahead of the next-best Harlequins. They’re also second in carries (873), third in defenders beaten (162) and turnovers (54) and fifth in points (219) and tries (30).

La Rochelle are a well-rounded and well-oiled machine. They have steak upfront in the form of a powerhouse pack and sizzle in the backline. They’re lethal in transition play and without peer at the breakdown with Francois Cros, Thibaud Flament and Peato Mauvaka serving as a triple threat.

And then, of course, there’s the brilliant Antoine Dupont, captain of the club and his country. His vision, massive boot and game management put him on a different plane than any other scrumhalf in the game today, while he adds plenty of additional value.

What will come as a surprise to most is the fact that the combative No.9 has nine turnovers to his name. The only players to have pulled off more steals than him are two flankers – Harlequins’ Will Evans (13) and Northampton Saints’ Courtney Lawes (11).

If anyone can give the decorated Dupont a run for his money, though, it’s Jamison Gibson-Park, whose playmaking and game driving were on full display in his Man of the Match performance against the Saints. The New Zealand-born virtuoso creates tries and has the ball on a string with his box kicks, which saw five of his bombs being retained against the English club.

Overall, Toulouse top-most of the stats. They’ve scored the most points (311) and tries (46), made the most carries (896), metres (3,716) and clean breaks (97), and beaten the most defenders (167). They also have the joint-second-best lineout (91%), are joint-second in turnovers (60) and fourth in passes (893).

With all that said, the question remains, what will separate these two titans? Frankly, it could go either way. Discipline will be key, and we’d hate for cards to ruin a match of this magnitude. In the end, it boils down to one of rugby’s great clichés, that being defence wins championships.  

In Jacques Nienaber, who joined Leinster after guiding the Springboks to a second successive World Cup title along with Rassie Erasmus last year, the Irish club have Weapon X – a genius of all aspects of holding court and the final piece of the puzzle.

In addition to the way he’s transformed Leinster’s defence, he’s also a new, invaluable voice whose experience and knowledge of winning playoff games will steel the Irish giants and should help them get over the hump in a humdinger.

Prediction: Leinster by 3

Suggested Bet: Leinster at 1.74.

Bonus Points:

• Leinster will be playing in a third Champions Cup final in succession equalling the feats of Toulouse in 2003, 2004 and 2005, Toulon (2013, 2014, 2015) and La Rochelle (2021, 2022, 2023).

• If Cian Healy, who has appeared in a record seven finals to date, is selected in Leinster’s match day 23 for the final, and if the Irish province are victorious, he will become the first player in history to win the tournament five times.

• Saturday’s final will be the seventh between Irish and French clubs with the Irish currently leading the way with four victories to two.

• Dupont’s impressive all-round ability is reflected is this season’s tournament statistics. Toulouse’s captain is top of the carries (110) and offloads (20) categories, is second for both metres (534) and line breaks (13), and is in joint-third place for turnovers (9).

• Leo Cullen and Ugo Mola have each won the tournament as a player and as a head coach. Cullen captained Leinster to victories in 2009, 2011 and 2012 before winning as a coach in 2018 while Mola came off the bench for Toulouse in the inaugural 1996 final and then led the club to the title in 2021.

• Lowe’s scoring exploits have moved him up into the top 10 on the tournament’s all-time list. The Leinster wing, who became the first player to score a semi-final hat-trick with his treble against Northampton Saints at Croke Park, is now in joint eighth place with 27 tries from just 35 appearances.

• Players from 10 different countries – Argentina, Australia, England, France, Ireland, New Zealand, Samoa, Scotland, South Africa and Spain – are likely to feature in the showpiece match which will be watched by TV viewers in more than 150 countries worldwide.

• Gibson-Park is one of 12 players who have won the northern-southern hemisphere double of Champions Cup (Leinster 2018) and Super Rugby (Hurricanes 2016) titles.

• Emile Ntamack, who captained Toulouse in the 1996 final, and Romain Ntamack, a winner in 2021, are the only father and son combination to have won the tournament.

• Leinster hooker, Dan Sheehan, who scored two tries in last season’s final, is one of only five players to have achieved the feat in the tournament’s deciding match. The others are: Sebastien Carrat (Brive v Bath 1998), Leon Lloyd (Leicester Tigers v Stade Français 2001), Johnny Sexton (Leinster v Northampton Saints 2011) and Simon Zebo (Racing 92 v Exeter Chiefs 2020).

Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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