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What Jamison Gibson-Park makes of facing Antoine Dupont again

By PA
Antoine Dupont during a Toulouse rugby captain's run at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, England. (Photo By Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Leinster scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park says his side’s recent record against Toulouse provides confidence as the two most decorated teams in the history of the Champions Cup prepare to meet in the 2024 final.

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Toulouse have five tournament wins to Leinster’s four, but the Irish province head to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday with three successive wins over their French rivals.

“I suppose we’re confident because we’ve had some good results against Toulouse the last few seasons,” Ireland international Gibson-Park said, pointing to the three games played since 2019.

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“But they have changed a lot since our last clash. They are the best team in the competition and have beaten everyone fairly comfortably this season.

“They manage to break down opposition defences with their impressive attacking game and players of international class, like Jack Willis and Pita Ahki.

“They’re on fire at the moment and so I think they’ll arrive in London super-confident. It should be a very good match.”

Leinster have not been crowned kings of Europe since 2018, falling just short in the final against Saracens (2019) and La Rochelle (2022 and 2023).

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Toulouse’s last success came in London three years ago with a Twickenham triumph over La Rochelle.

Gibson-Park said: “We’ve done our best in the last two finals, but this season we’ve put everything into trying to move forward with the arrival of some new coaches, who have changed a lot of things.

“We hope that our defensive system will make the difference in the final by disrupting a Toulouse team who like to run with the ball a lot.

“The goal is to do better this year, but Toulouse are in great form, so we’re expecting a very difficult match.”

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Gibson-Park’s battle with Antoine Dupont, the France scrum-half great who missed the Six Nations to focus on sevens rugby ahead of the Paris Olympics, offers a fascinating final sub-plot.

“These are the moments you dream of in my position,” said Gibson-Park.

“He’s the number one player, the best player in the world these last few seasons.

“It’s a huge challenge for players in our position. But it’s the team who are facing him.”

Leinster have omitted Ireland flanker Josh van der Flier in favour of Will Connors, the 2022 World Rugby player of the year starting on the bench, and full-back Hugo Keenan returns to the starting line-up after injury.

Jamie Osborne continues to partner Robbie Henshaw in midfield with Garry Ringrose still sidelined by injury.

Toulouse are unchanged from their semi-final win against Harlequins, with skipper Dupont alongside fly-half Romain Ntamack.

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