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'I'm not too sure what the reason is for that' - Cheslin Kolbe's surprising Champions Cup admission

By Ian Cameron
(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Toulouse winger Cheslin Kolbe admits that his nerves leading up to this weekend’s Heineken Champions Cup Final are worse than prior to South Africa’s Rugby World Cup final with England in 2019.

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Toulouse’s four tournament wins in 1996, 2003, 2005 and 2010 set a benchmark that Leinster reached with their victories in 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2018. Now the French club can move ahead again with an historic fifth win on Saturday, but one note of caution – the last time they played a final at Twickenham in 2004, Toulouse lost out 27-20 to Wasps.

Kolbe, who’s been at the Stade Ernest-Wallon since 2017, tried to put a finger on the reason for the added nerves when talking with journalists this week.

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“I was fortunate enough to play in a few finals. And, funnily enough, I actually spoke to my wife last night and said, “For some reason, the final coming up this weekend just feels much more nerve-wracking than the final I played in the World Cup”.

“I’m not too sure what the reason is for that. I know it’s two great teams in France coming up against each other and, yeah, I think the nerves, the butterflies, are really starting to show. But I think that’s a good sign as well.

Toulouse Head Coach, Ugo Mola, was a winner with the club in the inaugural final in Cardiff in 1996, while his Forwards Coach, Jean Bouilhou, was a winner in 2003, 2005 and 2010, along with Backs Coach, Clément Poitrenaud.

“Yeah, I think it’s probably [partly due to] the long wait, Toulouse not getting the fifth title for ten years. And I think there is a bit of… Not pressure, but expectations, I think, from the public, from the club.

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“And obviously, a bit of pressure on us as players to, hopefully, try and create history by getting that fifth star onto the jersey. But I think, yeah, I’d definitely say that’s going to be our main focus. I think we just need to focus on the processes in the game.

“But I definitely do think that the ten-year wait for the fifth star, and then, obviously, the bit of pleasure that we have, as players, [as we] try and make history as well, that does play a bit [of a part]. But I think, for us, we have an opportunity to make history with this phenomenal group, so [I’m] looking forward to that.

Kolbe says that the weight of the red and blacks’ history is one that is openly spoken about by players.

“We have a lot of old memories all around the stadium, with the four stars and the various teams that have played in the finals. And I think it also just brings a bit of motivation into the group that’s going to be playing this coming week.

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“And I think that Toulouse has got an incredible history with the incredible players it’s produced throughout the years. And, obviously, achieving so much with the Champions Cup and the Top 14. So, yeah, definitely a bit of history all around, but I think it’s there to motivate us to, hopefully, succeed this coming Saturday.”

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Shaylen 1 hours ago
Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink

If France, Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland got together and all changed their eligibility laws in the same way SA has it would be absolutely bonkers. All players from all nations involved in Europe would be fair game as would their coaches. The investment in rugby would be supercharged as teams would rush to create dream teams. Transfer markets would be super charged, salary caps may change, private investment would grow as rich backers first buy clubs and then put money into their clubs in an effort to land the best players. The richest clubs and franchises would benefit most but money and players would move across borders at a steady flow. Suddenly countries like Wales and Scotland would have a much larger pool of players to select from who would be developed and improved in systems belonging to their rivals within superstar squads while their clubs receive large sums in the transfer market. The Six Nations would experience a big boost as the best players become available all the time. The Champions cup would become even more fiercely contested as the dream teams clash. Fan engagement would grow as fans would follow their favourite players creating interest in the game across the continent. Transfer markets and windows would become interesting events in themselves, speculation would drive it and rumours of big transfers and interest in players would spread. All of this is speculation and much of it would not eventuate straight away but just like in football the spread of players and talent would create these conditions over time. The transfer markets in European football is proof of this. Football had the same club vs country debate eons ago and favoured an open system. This has made it the largest game in the world with global interest and big money. Rugby needs to embrace this approach in the long run as well

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Jon 7 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

This is a bit dramatic for me, I think the Rebels and Force cultures would be very strong, and if a player is chosen from either, you can be confident they are in a good head space and ready. Whether they quite have the technical or tactical foundations of the other two states is where one would way their risk of selection. I see no need for Schmidt to worry about that risk in this squad. The main reason I could see a predominance of players from Brumbies and Reds, is simple cohesion. What might the coaching group make of what’s lacking in the Tahs, and to a lesser extent Rebels and Force’s, franchise? Certainly sides (players) that are running irish plays like we saw from that lovely McDermott long ball with have a head start. I hope the players can continue it at International level. Really liked what I saw of Wright (don’t know player focus and just hadn’t seen a lot of him anyway) in that game, can see him being a glue in a Wallaby side too. A with the similar worry of selecting players like Ryan, I think it unfounded to worry so much about forward balance at the moment. Including both Wright and Skelton in the same lineout is not going to lose you games gainst Wales. Nor will any unknown weakenss Wales might find in Ryan be exploited to any great extent. It is the perfect time to introduce such a young player. What other shortcuts might Schmidt want to make now, just a year out from hosting BIL? When Gamble came on the scene I thought he had a Pocock ability to break game apart along with performing the role of a openside well. I would be very keen to drop Leota/Hooper for Gamble, and in your squad make up, include Uru as a lock. Did you forget to remove Vunivalu from your team? Would you have Meafou in your squad if you could?

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