There is a barrage of fireworks. on the field, blue and yellow smoke in the middle, and the teams are now walking with determination. Wayne Barnes, the English referee, picks up a ball on his way to the pitch. The crowd waves blue and yellow flags, depending on who they’re yelling at, and we’re ready to go.
“He bullied the bejeepers.” Nice.
this is going to be little more than a coronation for Leinster? There are some shots of La Rochelle in a pre-match group, and guess what, they look excited.
The surest sign of consistent quality in European club rugby is visible just above the heart. Those four little gold stars woven into the Leinster jersey might not immediately catch everyone’s eye, but if you know it, you know it. Each of them denotes a European Cup title and adding another on Saturday will see the Irish province enter the most exclusive club.
It’s 15 minutes before showtime.
Here’s Ugo Monye on Stuart Lancaster and Leinster’s synchronicity:
Did you catch Lyon v Toulon? in the Challenge Cup final last night?
Robert Kitson certainly did:
“Hi Luke, I have a front row seat at Salou’s Dubliner Bar,” writes Martin Kelly. “Let the game begin!”
Enjoy it, Martin. Sounds lovely.
I had to google to see where Salou is, and I can reveal that it is in Spain, a little further down the coast from Barcelona.
We are 25 minutes from the start.
Ronan O’Gara, La Rochelle, speaks to BT and is asked about those two lost finals last season: “We’ve learned a lot. But it’s probably a little early to tell. Controlling emotions is going to be important for us… in the last 12 months, we have faced similar situations. [going down to 14 men]and we have treated them better.
“We are aware of the team we are playing against, but we will look to put pressure on them and we will look to keep the ball… I hope we ‘play’.
“At this stage it’s out of your control, as a manager… our mentality is good, the boys are excited for today… all the managers in Europe want to be here. I’m lucky to be here.”
austin healey rock a wonderful off-white and beige ensemble, contrasted with a pair of blue loafers. No socks, but you already knew that.
Dallaglio: “Leinster have the best attack and the best structure in the competition…they are a team based on possession, and what La Rochelle needs to do is deny them the ball, and I think they can do that on the break.”
Leo Cullen chats with BT Sport’s Sarra Elgan Easterby: “It’s unbelievable… the tournament is very, very special for a lot of people. It’s a great honor to be here again and now it’s about producing a decent performance.
“For us it’s just trying to focus on what makes the team good, against a very tough opponent… Everyone has to sacrifice and work hard… both teams are desperate to win, but it’s who is more accurate on the day . ”
Leo Cullen and Ronan O’GaraThe rival coaches are in the photo talking quietly on the pitch.
O’Driscoll is of the opinion that it will take an ‘outrageous’ performance from La Rochelle to win this.
curiously it’s 10 years since an Irishman was last crowned European Player of the Year. The list of previous winners is impressive: Antoine Dupont, Maro Itoje, Owen Farrell, Jonny Wilkinson, but an Anglo-French duopoly has existed since 2012, when Leinster, Ireland and Lions fullback Rob Kearney picked up the award.
Sport They pushed the boat quite literalleaving Craig Doyle loose in the water in a very warm looking Marseille.
Now that live coverage has begun, BT’s lineup of experts alongside Doyle is O’Driscoll, Healy, Monye and Dallaglio. They have gotten big. The match is also on Channel 4, for those who need it, but of course you should also continue reading this MBM.
What’s going to happen then? What is the mood among the fans? Leinster supporters, La Rochelle ultras and even neutrals are encouraged to email me or cheep with thoughts on today’s masterpiece.
Forget the Cannes film festival which has been running all week. If people want to enjoy an absorbing and character-packed drama, they need only venture down the Mediterranean coast to the Stade Vélodrome, where a haunting duel in the style of Shakespeare awaits. For Romeo and Tybalt, read Johnny Sexton and Ronan O’Gara.
Leinster have not changed of the quarterfinals and the semifinal, which seems to be a testament to their fitness and conditioning, one of the many things they have done well this season. Tadhg Furlong and James Lowe passed fitness tests to be part of the starting lineup.
For La Rochelle, number 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow and flanker Victor Vito are missing through injury. Thomas Berjon and Matthias Haddad replace Kerr-Barlow and Vito, respectively. Will Skelton from Australia returns on the second row and Brice Dulin returns at full back.
Leinster: Keenan, J. O’Brien, Ringrose, Henshaw, Lowe, Sexton, Gibson-Park, Porter, Kelleher, Furlong, Moloney, Ryan, Doris, Van der Flier, Conan. Replacements: Sheehan, Healy, Ala’alatoa, J. McCarthy, Ruddock, McGrath, R. Byrne, Frawley.
La Rochelle: Dulin, Leyds, Sinzelle, Danty, Rhule, West, Berjon, Priso, Bourgarit, Atonio, Lavault, Skelton, Liebenberg, Haddad, Alldritt. Replacements: Bosch, Wardi, Sclavi, Sazy, Bourdeau, Retiere, Botia, Favre.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (URF)
Can anyone stop Leinster? The progress of Leo Cullen’s entire team in the later rounds of the Champions Cup has been serene. They overcame Gallagher Premiership leaders Leicester in the quarter-finals before dominating Toulouse in the quarter-finals. His campaign had also been characterized by some blowout wins before that, with many teams trying and failing to contain what is sometimes a perfect balance of power and precision. Leinster’s scrum power, the ball speed they are capable of generating at rucks, and the unrivaled intelligence and precision of Johnny Sexton’s distribution from fly-half have often proven to be an irresistible combination.
On the other hand, if there’s one manager you’d pick to try and derail the Irish province, it’s La Rochelle’s Ronan O’Gara, who knows Leinster intimately and, as a proud Munsterman, will approach today’s match with a little extra help. of determination his personal rivalry with Sexton is another factor that turns him on even more. The players on the field will also be very useful, with Grand Slam winner Grégory Alldritt, Jonathan Danty and France’s Brice Dulin among the starting XVs. It is very likely that the French team will deal better with the almost 30°C heat in Marseille, in the deal.
So here we go. A season of high-speed collisions and world-class Champions’ Cup skills boils down to 80 minutes at the Stade Vélodrome on the south coast of France. Team news, pre-match reading and more to come.