2022 Heineken Champions Cup Final Preview: Leinster vs La Rochelle

Toulouse lifting the 2021-22 European Rugby Champions Cup

Team News

With confirmation that prop, Tadhg Furlong and wing, James Lowe will be fit, Leinster will be looking to continue their dominance within the Champions Cup this year. The Irish pair had been in a race to be fit for the final, with confirmation today that both will start against La Rochelle, who will be without both scrum half Tawera Kerr-Barlow and former all black back row, Victor Vito.

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O’Gara has decided to stick with Ihaia West at fly-half, despite his problems with the boot in the semi-final win over Racing 92, hoping he can find some sort of form that resembles his performance in last years match up for the Champions Cup Final this year.

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Last Year

The last time the two sides met, last year in the semi-final of the champions cup, La Rochelle were able to slow Leinster down with brute force and immense physicality. There have been questions about their ability to repeat the same this year, with Leinster’s sheer dominance through all rounds of the competition.

Although Ronan O’Gara’s team will have Australian lock Will Skelton starting in the second row again, there are questions around his overall fitness, having only come off the bench for the french side, in their win over Stade Francais. The top 14 side will need every bit of physicality brought by their big men in an attempt to overthrow the former champions, but will also have to rely on fly half, West improving his form from the tee.

Leinster will, in contrast to last year, have Irish maestro Johnny Sexton at the helm, with the fly half in a rich vain of form both for the Pro 14 club and Ireland. Sexton has been a thorn in the side of Ronan O’Gara since his playing days and the two former rivals will be looking to gain another win over the other.

The battle of the big men is one that has been seen before, with Leo Cullen’s Leinster pack coming out second best in last year’s match, one that they will remember without much fondness. The 32-23 loss to La Rochelle in 2021 will be added motivation for Cullen and his team, along with the prospect of making it five champions cup final wins in six final appearances.

La Rochelle, however, will be looking to improve on last year’s performance in 2021’s Champions Cup Final vs Toulouse, a loss which was made even more painful with Levani Botia’s red card in the 27th minute of the game.

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Champions Cup Final Prediction

Although former Munster fly half and now La Rochelle coach, O’Gara is well placed to deal with Johnny Sexton, having worked with and against him for so many years, it will be his forwards who will have to do the work to slow the ball down in the final.

With the current form of players such as Furlong, Doris and James Ryan, Leinster look to be too much to handle as far as physicality and skill. In order for La Rochelle to overcome, the seemingly monstrous task ahead, they will have to slow Leinster down.

Alldritt and his fellow forwards will have to be at their brilliant best in order to prevent Sexton and his supporting cast from maintaining their overwhelming pace of play.

The strength in depth on the Leinster bench and the lethal attack both through the forwards, and backs such as Lowe and Keenan is a problem for La Rochelle, who seem to lack the same edge. Despite the prospect of an extremely physical game, it looks to be another win for Leinster in Europe and another winners medal for Johnny Sexton as he nears the end of his illustrious career.

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