Former England standoff Andy Goode thinks it would be a good idea to move the Champions Cup finals back to France, after two Top 14 teams made the final of Europe’s premier rugby competition.
Toulouse saw off Bordeaux Begles in a dour semi-final at Stade Ernst Wallon, while La Rochelle will be bidding to become the fourth French club after Toulouse, Brive and RC Toulon to win the European Cup, after impressively out-muscling tournament heavyweights Leinster.
The victories have now set up an all-French final, but one that will be played in front of 10,000 fans in London. Goode suggested maybe the venue needs a re-think, tweeting: “Probably be a decent idea to move the Champions Cup final to somewhere in France with it being 2 French teams in the final now with Covid and all that? Just a thought…”
Probably be a decent idea to move the @ChampionsCup final to somewhere in France with it being 2 French teams in the final now with Covid and all that? Just a thought….
— Andy Goode (@AndyGoode10) May 2, 2021
The finals had originally been set to take place in Marseille, but have been changed due to high levels of the virus in France. Earlier this month the EPCR and the Rugby Football Union (RFU) revealed that Twickenham Stadium would host the 2021 Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup finals, largely thanks to the UK’s low case numbers.
Toulouse, inaugural winners in 1996, will be appearing in the final for a record seventh time in their history while the Twickenham Stadium decider will be a first for La Rochelle. Toulouse will be aiming to set a new tournament record of five titles on Saturday, 22 May.
After putting in a huge shift against Leinster, former Wallaby lock Will Skelton will be aiming for a second winner’s medal having lifted the trophy with Saracens in 2019. Apart from Will Skelton, three members of the La Rochelle squad have previously tasted European success as Geoffrey Doumayrou, Jules Plisson and Jérémy Sinzelle were all Challenge Cup winners with Stade Francais Paris in 2017.
However, history is not with La Rochelle, as Toulouse have played three European Cup finals against French opposition – Perpignan in 2003, Stade Francais Paris in 2005 and Biarritz Olympique in 2010 – and have won them all.
Ugo Mola, a winner with Toulouse in 1996, is in line to emulate Leinster’s Leo Cullen who is currently the only person to have won the tournament both as a player and as a Head Coach. Although Ali Hepher, who won as a player with Northampton Saints in 2000, is the Exeter Chiefs’ Head Coach, he is the club’s No 2 behind Rob Baxter. Similarly, Ronan O’Gara, a winner with Munster in 2006 and 2008, is currently the No 2 at La Rochelle to Director of Rugby, Jono Gibbes.
Emile Ntamack, who captained Toulouse to their first European Cup title in 1996, and Romain Ntamack, are in line to become the first father and son to win European club titles. The club’s High Performance Manager, Jérome Cazalbou, started at scrum-half in the 1996 final against Cardiff and scored a try.
Additional reporting, EPCR
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