Bristol Bears will have to travel to Aix-en-Provence to meet Toulon in the final of the European Challenge Cup after the French side beat Leicester 34-19 in the second semi-final.
Toulon earned home nation advantage for the final as the highest ranked team left in the tournament and will now only have to travel 57 miles for the final on Friday, October 16.
They scored two tries in each half to heap further misery on new Leicester head coach Steve Borthwick, who saw his side’s last faint hopes of gaining a place in next season’s Heineken Champions Cup by winning the Challenge Cup go up in smoke.
The victory means there will be a fourth final outing in the tournament for the great Italian number eight, Sergio Parisse, who turned 37 earlier this month.
He captained Stade Francais Paris in the 2011, 2013 and 2017 finals, winning the man-of-the-match award in his side’s victory over La Rochelle in Edinburgh three years ago.
“It feels good to have beaten Leicester, but we want to go on and win the title. We deserve our place in the final,” said Parisse.
Toulon, who won the Heineken Champions Cup in 2013, 2014 and 2015, have fallen at the final hurdle twice before in the Challenge Cup. They were beaten in Marseille by Cardiff Blues in 2010 and then fell to Biarritz Olympique at the Twickenham Stoop in 2012.
“This is a young team and I am really happy to be a part of it. I really hope we can go on and win the title,” he added.
“We were very clinical in our turnovers and got two tries from them in the first half. We played some good rugby.
“Our set-piece was also very good against a Leicester side that is well known for being good in that area. Now we are looking forward to facing Bristol, who played an amazing game against Bordeaux-Begles.”
While Parisse is currently the elder statesman in the Toulon squad, he will soon be the second oldest when former All Black great Ma’a Nonu rejoins the French club to help alleviate their backline injury woes.
“In order to compensate for the injuries of Anthony Belleau and Julien Heriteau, the sports staff and President Bernard Lemaitre contacted the New Zealand centre,” a Toulon club statement read.
“After three seasons spent in Toulon between 2015 and 2018, the All Black with 104 selections has signed up as an additional player, to bring all his experience to the Red and Black three-quarter line.
“Ma’a Nonu will arrive in Toulon in the coming days and the club is delighted with his return and hopes to share with him a very good 2020-2021 season.”
Now 38, Nonu spent three seasons at Stade Felix Mayol and played in two Top 14 finals. He scored 14 tries in 77 games for the club.
“It will nice not to be the oldest guy in the squad and it is going to be good for the team to have Ma’a Nonu back. All the Toulon fans will be happy,” Parisse added.
One of Nonu’s first acts will be to try to formulate a plan to stop Bristol star centre Semi Radradra causing more mayhem in the final against a team he played for in the 2017-18 season.
He scored twice for Bristol in their quarter-final win over the Dragons and then provided the final pass for two more in Friday night’s semi-final win over Bordeaux-Begles.
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