Sam Warburton hails ‘phenomenal’ Jack Willis after Toulouse’s Champions Cup final victory

David Skippers
Sam Warburton and Jack Willis image.jpg

Former Wales skipper Sam Warburton and Toulouse flanker Jack Willis in action against Leinster.

Nearly two years after his much-loved club Wasps ceased to exist, Jack Willis has been crowned an Investec Champions Cup winner after helping Toulouse to victory over Leinster on Saturday and earned high praise from former Wales and Lions captain Sam Warburton.

The French heavyweights won the the tournament for a sixth time courtesy of a 31-22 extra-time victory at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium with Willis catching the eye with a superb all action display.

An ecstatic Willis, who joined Toulouse in November 2022 after Wasps entered administration the previous month, said he “can’t put it into words how amazing this feels” after winning the Champions Cup for the first time with Les Rouge et Noir.

The 27-year-old flanker was on the pitch for the entire match and was one of the best players on display.

Brilliant on defence

In tandem with his captain, Antoine Dupont, the England international dominated the breakdowns as Toulouse won a remarkable 19 turnovers and Willis also delivered an outstanding defensive display as he made a match-high 29 tackles – more than double the amount of hits made by Leinster’s leading tackler Caelan Doris, who made 14 hits.

“The way it went back and forth in Leinster’s favour, our favour, you never knew what was going to happen,” Willis said on TNT Sports.

“With a couple of minutes to go, we obviously go into extra time, having nothing in the tank, to be honest with you. But I think we believed we could do it. We have an unbelievable respect for Leinster, what a team they are.

“God we’ve had to work hard this week and in previous weeks building up to hoping this game would happen. I just can’t put it into words how amazing this feels.”

It was an epic encounter with both sides giving their all for the entire 100 minutes but Toulouse’s brilliance on attack and breakdown dominance helped them over the line in the end.

“It was tough to get over the gain-line, put it that way,” Willis said.

Toulouse win extra-time thriller against Leinster to claim SIXTH Champions Cup title

“Every time you carry you feel like you got melted, and we were trying our best to do the same.

“Leinster are an incredible team. We knew if we played our rugby we could go and get the result.

“I think what swung it was managing to get over in the corner, that try [from Matthis Lebel]. It was so close, penalty penalty penalty, and then getting that, it made a real big difference.”

TNT Sports pundit Warburton had special words of praise for Willis after Saturday’s final.

“I don’t know Jack, but I feel like I want to find him just to tell him how much I think of him as a player,” said the former Wales skipper and back-row.

“I think he’s phenomenal. He’s fitted in so well to Toulouse. Brilliant ball in hand, exceptional at the breakdown which is where he made his name defensively in England.

“Any other day, without Antoine Dupont, he would have been my Man of the Match.”

Toulouse player ratings: Antoine Dupont and Jack Willis produce all-time displays to fire French giants to sixth title

In fine form for Toulouse

After the disappointment of what happened at Wasps, Willis has slotted in seamlessly at Toulouse and produced several outstanding performances since joining the Top 14 champions.

“It was so tough what we went through at Wasps,” he said. “I miss so much about Wasps every day. I miss playing with my best mates, I miss playing with my brother.

“But this group is amazing and they’ve welcomed me in so well. I feel part of it here, from top to bottom, everyone in the club, not just the boys.

“To play in games like this, this is what it’s about. I love it. I’ve loved it and I’m loving it.”

READ MORE: The ‘asset’ Antoine Dupont gained in sevens that steered Toulouse to Champions Cup glory