Champions Cup final: Leinster bench Ireland star while Toulouse opt for Scotland back over France playmaker

Adam Kyriacou
Leinster have opted for Will Connors at openside for the Champions Cup final against Toulouse.

Leinster have opted for Will Connors at openside for the Champions Cup final against Toulouse.

Two of European club rugby’s most decorated teams, Leinster and Toulouse, will battle it out for Investec Champions Cup glory on Saturday.

Leinster will be desperate to win a fifth title while for Toulouse number six is on the line as the competition comes to a fascinating end at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Despite making the last two finals, as well as the 2019 showpiece, Leo Cullen’s men have not won the coveted prize since 2018 while Toulouse last tasted European success in 2021.

Final team news

There are three changes from the Leinster team that beat Northampton Saints in the semi-final earlier this month, with Josh van der Flier reverting to the bench.

Hugo Keenan, Jason Jenkins and Will Connors all return to the starting line-up, the latter taking over from the former World Rugby Player of the Year at openside.

Leinster’s four Champions Cup Player of the Year nominees, James Lowe, Jamison Gibson-Park, Dan Sheehan and captain Caelan Doris, all get starts in London.

Keenan is named at full-back, with Jordan Larmour and Lowe completing the back three.

Robbie Henshaw and Jamie Osborne continue their partnership in the centre, with Ross Byrne joining Gibson-Park in the half-backs.

Champions Cup: What happens if the Leinster v Toulouse final ends in a draw?

In the pack, Andrew Porter and Tadhg Furlong join Sheehan in an all-Ireland trio. It’s the second year in a row that the front-row stars start in the European final.

Having won the Nevin Spence Men’s XVs Young Player of the Year at the Rugby Players Ireland Awards earlier this week, Joe McCarthy gets the nod in the second-row alongside Jason Jenkins.

Finally, in the back-row, Doris is joined by Ryan Baird and Connors, with this a first start in a final for the latter duo.

Among the replacements, there are four players with at least 100 appearances for Leinster, while all eight have at least 60 caps.

Cian Healy is set to play in his ninth European final, while Leinster co-captain James Ryan is in line for his first European appearance of this season’s knockout stages, having last featured in the pool finale over Leicester Tigers.

Toulouse unchanged

Meanwhile, Toulouse have named an unchanged starting XV from their semi-final win against Harlequins, with Antoine Dupont once again skippering from scrum-half.

The France superstar continues alongside fly-half Romain Ntamack in the half-backs while Pita Ahki and Paul Costes once again link up in the midfield on Saturday.

Further back the wings are Matthis Lebel and Juan Cruz Mallia, with Scotland international Blair Kinghorn retaining the 15 shirt as Thomas Ramos is on the bench.

Up front, it’s as you were as Cyril Baille and Dorian Aldegheri pack down either side of Peato Mauvaka while Thibaud Flament and Emmanuel Meafou are the locks.

The back-row battle on Saturday is set to be a ferocious tussle with François Cros, Jack Willis and Alexandre Roumat going up against Baird, Connors and Doris.

Ugo Mola’s only change to his matchday squad comes on the bench as Joshua Brennan comes in for Mathis Castro-Ferreira as the back-row replacement option.

The teams

Leinster: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Jamie Osborne, 11 James Lowe, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Caelan Doris (c), 7 Will Connors, 6 Ryan Baird, 5 Jason Jenkins, 4 Joe McCarthy, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Dan Sheehan, 1 Andrew Porter
Replacements: 16 Rónan Kelleher, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Michael Ala’alatoa, 19 James Ryan, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Ciarán Frawley, 23 Josh van der Flier

Toulouse: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Juan Cruz Mallia, 13 Paul Costes, 12 Pita Ahki, 11 Matthis Lebel, 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Antoine Dupont (c), 8 Alexandre Roumat, 7 Jack Willis, 6 François Cros, 5 Emmanuel Meafou, 4 Thibaud Flament, 3 Dorian Aldegheri, 2 Peato Mauvaka, 1 Cyril Baille
Replacements: 16 Julien Marchand, 17 Rodrigue Neti, 18 Joel Merkler, 19 Richie Arnold, 20 Joshua Brennan, 21 Paul Graou, 22 Santiago Chocobares, 23 Thomas Ramos

Date: Saturday, May 25
Venue: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London
Kick-off: 14:45 BST (13:45 GMT)
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant Referees: Karl Dickson (England), Andrea Piardi (Italy)
TMO: Ian Tempest (England)

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