Leinster v Toulouse: What could go wrong on a busy day of London sport?

Toulouse have become far too familiar with extra-time ties for comfort; Discipline a key for the French side in years gone past

Two north London grounds, Wembley Stadium and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, 13 miles apart, will attract 152,850 fans at around the same time on Saturday. Manchester United face Premier League champions Manchester City in Wembley’s FA Cup final with Leinster going into their third Champion’s Cup final in a row, this year against Toulouse. With Wembley’s capacity set at 90,000 and sold out, and Spurs’ ground also at capacity with 62,850, the football at 3pm and rugby at 2.45pm makes for interesting transport issues and television viewership.

The football was deemed high risk by police last year when the same two sides met in the final and is the reason for the afternoon kick-off. Of course, rugby was a set date and has been known for over a year with the organisers announcing the Spurs venue last April. Still with football fans travelling from Ireland to support both United and City, thousands travelling from the north of England as well as the Leinster fans trying to get over, what could possibly go wrong?

Toulouse’s extra-time hex

Toulouse seem to be hexed with extra time in European finals. If the scores are even at full-time on Saturday, the game will go into two additional playing periods of 10 minutes each. It has only happened twice in a final of the Champions Cup, and in both occasions the French side were participating. It took added time for Toulouse to beat Cardiff 21-18 at Cardiff Arms Park in the inaugural 1995-1996 season and in the 2004-2005 season they beat Stade Francais 18-12 at Murrayfield. After 17 URC matches this season Leinster have yet to draw a match. Ditto for the Champions Cup, where Leinster did not draw a match in the pool or knockout stages. So, what are the chances Saturday?

If the scores are still level after extra-time, the winner will be decided by tries scored on the day and if teams are still level, it finally goes to a place-kicking competition. For that, each team chooses three kickers. They cannot be players that have been substituted or sent off. A shootout hasn’t happened in a European final but two years ago Munster found themselves in a kick off with, ahem, Toulouse in the quarter-final. In front of their famed Red Army, Munster suffered the cruellest exit imaginable as the French team claimed a 4-2 shootout win after the sides tied at 24-24. Historical footnote: Munster played in Aviva Stadium because Thomond Park was required for an Ed Sheeran concert.

READ MORE
Discipline

Toulouse don’t have to look too far to see where they can easily clean up on their performance chart. Discipline is something they have been reminded about this week as they have fallen short in that area in previous meetings with Leinster at the semifinal stage of the competition. The French side had a player, Emmanuel Meafou, yellow-carded in their 17-40 loss to Leinster in 2022 and two players yellow carded, Rodrigue Neti and Thomas Ramos, in their 22-41 defeat last year. Both of those matches were played in Dublin.

Word of Mouth

“Spookily, Toulouse’s scoring profile is almost identical in every quarter, they are relentless from start to finish and have scored 95 tries so far this season in the domestic competition which is 20 more than the next best.” Stade Francais forwards coach Paul Gustard talking about the strengths of Toulouse.

By the Numbers: 158

The number of caps outhalf Ross Byrne has for Leinster, making him the most experienced player in the starting 15 for the final against Toulouse. Loosehead prop, Cian Healy (276) and scrumhalf Luke McGrath (208) both start the afternoon on the bench.

Read More

Recommended