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La Rochelle name dream Champions Cup final opponents as they seek the three-peat

By Josh Raisey
Gregory Alldritt, left, and Romain Sazy of La Rochelle lift the trophy after during the Heineken Champions Cup Final match between Leinster and La Rochelle at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. (Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Winning the Investec Champions Cup is tough, winning two in a row is tougher and winning three in a row is nigh on impossible, and history shows us that.

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The fact that back-to-back titles have been achieved on five occasions but three on the bounce has only been achieved once shows just how hard it is to win that elusive third crown. Even then, it took rugby’s only ever ‘Galacticos’ team to achieve that as Toulon dominated the tournament between 2013 and 2015.

So for La Rochelle, they know the challenge that awaits them as they embark on their third straight title, beginning with a repeat of last year’s final against Leinster at the Stade Marcel Deflandre this Saturday.

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Stormers defence coach Norman Laker previews the Champions Cup Round One encounter with Leicester Tigers

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Stormers defence coach Norman Laker previews the Champions Cup Round One encounter with Leicester Tigers

Having beaten the four-time champions in the last two finals, the only logical step to achieve rugby immortality would be to face five-time champions Toulouse, and that’s who Ronan O’Gara’s side are gunning for.

Speaking at the launch of new Champions Cup tournament at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last month, La Rochelle winger Raymond Rhule, who started in both Champions Cup final wins, expressed the team’s desire to play the most decorated side in European rugby’s history in the same place in May.

“I think for us it would definitely be Toulouse,” the former South Africa winger said when asked La Rochelle’s preferred final opponents.

“That would be something that internally as a group we’d like to have. Obviously there’s a good rivalry there, and they robbed us of a couple of trophies. So, it’s a bit of a get-back- that’s an ideal situation. But we just want to be there, and who we face is the cherry on top.”

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La Rochelle and Toulouse have forged quite a rivalry in recent years, and while La Rochelle have picked up Europe’s top prize the past two seasons, it has been Toulouse who have come out on top when the pair have met in major finals. Toulouse produced the double over La Rochelle in 2021, beating them in both the Champions Cup and Top 14 finals. History repeated itself earlier this year when Toulouse won their 22nd domestic title at the expense of the European champions courtesy of Romain Ntamack’s late magic.

This could well be the biggest rivalry in club rugby at the moment, and finals would not get any better than the reigning champions facing the most successful side in the competition’s history.

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