After Toulouse’s victory over Ile-de-France (41-14), find out what caught the attention of our special correspondent at the Anoeta stadium.
Special Envoy to San Sebastian
Toulouse, the regular of the finals
By crushing this Friday Racing 92 (41-14), at the Reale Arena in San Sebastián, Toulouse put an end to a small black series: the Red and Blacks remained in fact on three defeats in their last three semi-finals (two in the Champions Cup, one in the Top 14 last year). Stronger, more efficient and more sure of their game, the players of Ugo Mola have logically bent limited and inconstant Ile-de-France residents, like their season. The flagship French rugby club qualified for the 29th championship final in its history, a national record ahead of Stade Français Paris (23). After two seasons without a title, the golden generation of Dupont-Ntamack will try to win, next week at the Stade de France, a 22nd shield from Brennus. Rugby lovers are waiting for a strong reunion with La Rochelle, which will first have to overcome Bordeaux-Bègles on Saturday (5 p.m.). Good news of the evening: no injuries are to be deplored among the French internationals.
The Huge Willis Slaughter
A little light on a shadow player. Arrived during the season as an additional player from Wasps placed in receivership, Jack Willis immediately acclimatized to Stade Toulousain and French rugby. Tough on pain, constant in his efforts, whether in scratching or in his charges, the English international third line (10 caps) once again shone in his new colors, within a conquering third line with Francois Cros and Alexandre Roumat. Against Racing, he was at the heart of the fight, precious and decisive, even if he is not the one we see the most. He left in the 60th minute to the applause of his supporters. Aware of having fallen on a good pickaxe, the Toulouse leaders were not mistaken: they extended the contract of the hyperactive 26-year-old flanker until 2026.I love being part of this group so ambitious and hardworking“, explained Jack Willis at the time of his extension.
The ruck war for Toulouse
The Racing pack was put to the test at the Reale Arena. Above all, the players of Laurent Travers were totally dominated in the ground game and in the regroupings. The people of Toulouse have indeed recovered an incalculable number of recovery balloons, as much ammunition as they have been able to put to good use. In addition to Jack Willis, Ugo Mola has formidable scratchers in his squad, such as Julien Marchand, François Cros and Cyril Baille. The prospect of a possible final between Toulouse and La Rochelle (which faces the UBB on Saturday) is already making all fans of big fights and intense arm wrestling salivate.
End clap for Laurent Travers
He was surely hoping for another outing. Sad end clap as his team was messy and dominated. The managerial career of Laurent Travers – a successful technician who ped through Montauban, Castres then Racing 92 – ended this Friday with a most logical defeat against Toulouse. Before the match, he had recognized that there was emotion before what could be under last match on the bench of Sky and White. Double champion of France as a coach (with Castres in 2013 then Racing in 2016), the former hooker of CA Brive European champion in 1997 will now embark on a career as a manager, since he will become chairman of the executive board of the Altosequan club. A new page is opening after a busy coaching career.
Finn Russell through the back door
A day with, a day without. This Friday evening was a day without. At Anoeta, Finn Russell was not the playmaker his team expected of him. Rough kicks, awkward forwards, bad choices, the Scottish opener foiled against Toulouse. Not creating danger and uncertainty in the opposing defence. An exit through the small door for the one who is regularly labeled “whimsical“. Next year, while English rugby is suffering from a thousand ailments, the number 10 of the XV du Thistle will join Bath for a contract estimated at one million euros, thanks to president-patron Bruce Craig. He will leave Ile-de-France supporters with the memory of masterful feats, but also of major underperformances. As for his last match with Racing.
The Racing scrum has (again) suffered
The Racing forwards were jostled, shaken and abused throughout the game against Julien Marchand’s teammates. It was one of their recurring weak points in their last outings, notably against Clermont and Stade Français, and they once again suffered in the scrimmage. If the touch remains effective, the scrum of Sky and White showed signs of (great) feverishness. Difficult in these conditions to hope for something against the solid and well-established Toulouse pack. The construction site is wide open, in this sector, for next season.