French rugby’s showpiece occasion, the High 14 closing will happen on the Stade de France on Saturday, June 17 as Toulouse goes up in opposition to European champions La Rochelle.
Ronan O’Gara’s aspect will probably be seeking to keep away from a repeat of the 2020/21 season the place they misplaced the ultimate on this fixture after dropping the Champions Cup closing a few weeks beforehand.
Following European success in opposition to Leinster in Could, La Rochelle beat Bordeaux-Begles within the semi-final, in the meantime, Toulouse ran in 5 tries in a complete 41-14 win over Racing 92.
With worldwide stars scattered throughout each side, it’s set to be one huge battle to see who will elevate the Brennus protect on the weekend.
A complete host of French internationals will function together with Antonie Dupont, Gregory Alldritt and Unai Antonio.
It’s the battle in two positions that we wish to give shut consideration to, fly-half and fullback, arguably two of crucial elements on the sphere come Saturday night time. While Toulouse have two stars in Romain Ntamack and Thomas Ramos, each at present starters for Fabien Galthie’s French nationwide staff, it is going to be attention-grabbing to see how the duo get on in opposition to Antoine Hastoy and Brice Dulin.
So, how will these 4 gamers have an effect on one of many largest video games within the European membership rugby calendar?
Similarities throughout the board
If you happen to have been to match the head-to-head battles in each positions, you’ll discover that there are many similarities between them.
Each Ramos and Dulin can boot the ball for miles which has grow to be a practice for French fullbacks ever since Melvyn Jaminet kicked off his Check profession, however the duo may create in assault, though at instances they may each lack consistency till Ramos’ spectacular marketing campaign in the newest marketing campaign.
In the meantime, Ntamack and Hastoy can be extra recognized for his or her passing and operating sport earlier than their kicking sport, however when wanted they will execute a sensible kicking sport.
The quartet have all featured for the nationwide aspect underneath Galthie all through the final Rugby World Cup cycle, with Ramos maintaining maintain of the 15 shirt from Dulin and Jaminet & Ntamack being first selection forward of Hastoy who was third selection within the Six Nations behind Matthieu Jalibert.
Additionally, don’t be shocked through the High 14 closing the place all 4 gamers will stand in as first receiver sooner or later, a quite common theme amongst the 2 sides.
Kicking will probably be important
One of many intriguing battles that can happen within the High 14 closing in Paris this weekend would be the kicking battle between the 2 sides, while Dupont and La Rochelle scrum-half Tawera Kerr-Barlow will commerce just a few field kicks with one another, I’m positive the ten and 15s will need their say.
Within the semi-finals, each side kicked greater than the opposition, Toulouse kicked 32 instances in comparison with Racing’s 22 and La Rochelle kicked 41 to Bordeaux’s 38.
Fullback Dulin will have to be cautious of a few of the field kicking Dupont will ship his manner as he’ll have to be strong underneath the excessive ball, if he doesn’t and Toulouse regain possession, anticipate both Ramos or Ntamack to kick longer and apply loads of stress.
However, O’Gara arrange his aspect final week for kicking battles that might go on for for much longer, which paid dividends in an important second half kicking trade.
With flanker Paul Boudehent within the sin bin and the rating at 21-13, La Rochelle proceed to spend the subsequent 6 minutes in a steady kicking battle with Bordeaux, with Hastoy and Dulin taking part in a significant position to realize territory and take the sting out of the person benefit.
A conflict of kicking types awaits with Toulouse hoping to pressure errors from field kicking earlier than unleashing one of many different backs as well it down subject in opposition to a extra affected person La Rochelle aspect who can be very happy to spend the vast majority of the sport kicking,
Quietly sensible Hastoy
While everyone knows of the qualities of Ntamack, a few of which we’ve seen on the worldwide stage in opposition to the All Blacks in 2021 with that break from underneath his personal posts, his reverse man this weekend has quietly been doing the enterprise for O’Gara’s membership.
Since becoming a member of from Pau forward of this season, Hastoy has already gained the Champions Cup and will probably be seeking to full the double.
Though it was his efficiency within the closing in opposition to Leinster which galvanized essentially the most, regardless of not being overly flashy. He kicked 12 factors within the closing and performed a significant half within the two first half tries.
The primary sees him slender the Leinster defence whereas his scrum-half accomplice within the bin and Dulin stepping in at 9, a easy intervention from the fly-half means centre Jonathan Danny might smash into Garry Ringrose and rating.
It occurs once more for the second attempt, with Leinster forwards not retreating round, as a substitute of getting Ringrose to try to deal with a much bigger man, Hastoy desires to get Ringrose to decide as there’s an overlap out large.
Hastoy runs in direction of the hole of the place Leinster forwards ought to have been however couldn’t retreat again in time, Ringrose bites and a easy go to UJ Seuteni who dots down.
High 14 closing too near name?
Each side will probably be seeking to discover weaknesses of the opposite, however with each side being extraordinarily proficient and stacked with internationals, it could possibly be too near name.
Possibly the sport will go all the way down to the kicking of both fly-half or fullback on this yr’s High 14 closing.
Primary Picture credit score: @StadeToulousain