The two best teams of the Top 14 this season meet on Friday to compete for the title of champion of France. They already faced each other a month ago in the Champions Cup final, won by Toulouse. The Rochelais hope to take their revenge and thus concretize their rise in power.
A 21st national title in 2021: this is the goal of Stade Toulouse, the most successful club in the French championship. During the Top14 final on Friday March 25, against La Rochelle, he will have the opportunity to expand his record even further and end his season with a brilliant double since he has already won the Champions Cup this season. , the most prestigious of European competitions.
The Toulouse residents will defend their title won against Clermont at the Stade de France in June 2019, the Covid-19 pandemic having led to the interruption of the championship last season before the finals. This time they went normally and the final will take place on Friday at the Stade de France in front of 14,000 spectators, the government having agreed this week to increase the initially planned tonnage of 5,000 people.
The Toulousains will play their 9th final in this arena since its inauguration in 1998, with a record of 6 wins and 2 defeats. For their opponents from La Rochelle, however, it will be a great first since this club, born in 1898, has never, to date, played in the final of the French championship.
In constant progress in recent seasons, Stade Rochelais finished second in the Top 14 at the end of the regular season, just behind Stade Toulouse. And he managed to dominate in the semi-final Racing 92, formidable armada of French rugby. For their part, the Toulousains beat the Union Bordeaux Bègles to win the right to defend their shield of Brennus, the trophy awarded each year to the winner of the championship.
Four defeats against Toulouse this season
The poster for this Top 14 final is suddenly the same as the Champions Cup, played on May 22 at Twickenham. This was again a first for the Maritimes, which had never reached such a level on the European scene. But they lost (17-22) to Stade Toulouse which then won its fifth European star on the English lawn.
For their second final of the season against these same Toulouse residents, the Rochelais of course hope that the outcome will be different this time. Knowing that they have lost their four encounters against the Reds and Blacks this season: they were beaten once in a friendly match in August, then twice in the league and, finally, in the European Cup final. .
Confidence will therefore be more on the Hauts-Garonnais side. Their predecessors had already succeeded, in 1996, in achieving a double in the French championship and the European Cup. It was then the first edition of this continental competition, in a smaller format, and the Toulouse Stadium had won the trophy in January against Cardiff before winning in June the French championship at the Parc des Princes.
Twenty-five years later, the Toulouse players of course dream of repeating such a feat which would materialize the return to the foreground of the club started two seasons ago, after a period of scarcity. For this final, the Toulouse will not however be able to count on their usual opener, Romain Ntamack, package due to injury. And they will have to show themselves capable of withstanding an extremely powerful and determined La Rochelle team.
The Rochelais’ thirst for a title
The Rochelais have, in fact, the firm intention not to end this season empty-handed. “We are a group of competitors: we don’t want to go to the final to go to the final. There’s no point in getting carried away because we still have the hardest part to do. It’s a very, very big one. piece, “La Rochelle third-line Grégory Alldritt told AFP this week.
He is part of a package of very solid forwards, like the colossal Australian second-row Will Skelton or the bulky right pillar Uini Atonio. And the Rochelais do not lack talent in their three-quarters who rely in particular on the experience of the sparkling Brice Dulin, also back of the France team.
Beyond the result of the Top 14 final, Toulouse knows that La Rochelle is now one of the toughest opponents in the championship. “I find that this club is super healthy, well built and it’s something good for rugby in general (…). I have the impression to see these rivalries that there were between us and our Brivist friends in the 1990s, then the Stade Français, Biarritz or Clermont recently, “Toulouse manager Ugo Mola told AFP.
By entering the last four of the Top 14 three times since 2017 and playing two European Cup finals (European Challenge 2019, Champions Cup 2021), Stade Rochelais has become a club that matters. It has aroused incredible enthusiasm in and around La Rochelle, the team playing sold out for several years in its Marcel Deflandre stadium. And he still has to demonstrate that he is also a club that can win titles.