It’s going to be tight, Champions Cup finals usually are, but I think Leinster will win their fifth title tomorrow in Marseille.
They have the physicality, they have the depth, and they’re stacked with match winners. They’re the favourites for sure.
That said, it would be foolish to completely write off Ronan O’Gara’s La Rochelle because they’ve repeated their feat from last season and made another final.
Being an Atlantic community, Les Corsaires are no strangers to weathering a storm and that’s exactly what they’ll need to do in the Stade Velodrome tomorrow against the sea of blue that is Leinster.
The Irish province have the European pedigree and that counts for something in this competition – they know how to win it and are chasing their fifth title this weekend.
If they do lift the cup, they’d have done it the hard way. Having qualified in a lowly seed due to a controversial Covid-19 cancellation, they had to go through Connacht, Leicester and Toulouse to reach the finals.
Leinster vs the Munsterman
It’s testament to their depth and their approach to this competition. And in this final there is of course the storyline of O’Gara playing his former enemy in Leinster.
Should the Munsterman continue to perform in his role on the French coast, I don’t see how he isn’t in the picture for a job with Ireland in the future.
He’s clearly a smart coach and has been rewarded with a final in his first season with total control of his new club – who themselves have fallen in love with the Irishman.
If La Rochelle can weather the storm I mentioned, they could be in this final right to the end. But my gut says Leinster will come out victorious and what an achievement that would be for them.
Finals weekend is just that, a weekend, for a reason. And tonight there’s an all-French affair in the Challenge Cup.
Lyon take on Toulon in the same stadium and I think the former Galacticos of Toulon will just sneak it. I want this game to show off the best of the Top14 and combine sublime skill with raw power.
I loved my time with Stade Francais in that league, it really added something to my game, and I think more players should experience different leagues.
Joel Kpoku has been extraordinary for Lyon this year and the young Englishman has been embraced by the raucous crowd in France’s second city as a result.
I think it’s naive of rugby’s unions to ban players from international duty should they flee abroad for opportunity, experience, and simply money.
Zach Mercer is the name on everybody’s lips at the moment but Kpoku has been the kind of workhorse French teams adore.
His side will be up against it though, tonight, with Toulon slowly building back to the quality that saw them win three consecutive Champions Cups – albeit now with less international talent and more home grown depth.
Toulon should sneak this one but wouldn’t it be great to see a promising English player thriving by winning a trophy across the Channel?
Former England Sevens captain Ollie Phillips is the founder of Optimist Performance, experts in leadership development and behavioural change. Follow Ollie on Twitter and on LinkedIn.