• Leinster take on Toulouse in a heavyweight Champions Cup final on Saturday
  • The Irish side have suffered back-to-back defeats in the competition’s final

Tottenham will provide a suitably grand stage for what promises to be – in terms of title-winning pedigree – the greatest ever European rugby final.

Leinster versus Toulouse is a fitting, heavyweight Champions Cup decider, and a clash of the continent’s leading oval-ball dynasties. Between them, they have won the ultimate prize in northern hemisphere club rugby nine times and the Irish province are striving to join their illustrious French rivals in achieving five-star status.

This is an unofficial Test match. These two teams are awash with international quality and if they took part in the Six Nations, either of them could win it. Leinster are the core of the Ireland side in different kits, while Toulouse often produce more power, cohesion and flair than France.

Somehow, it is the first time that the contenders in north London have ever met in a final. Leinster are on a mission to avoid another near-miss ordeal against Gallic opponents, having lost to La Rochelle in the last two finals, by a combined margin of four points. The Dublin-based super-team have not conquered Europe since 2018 and by their exalted standards, that is a drought.

But what a task awaits them, against the leaders of the Top 14 league, armed with the man widely acclaimed as the best player in the world, scrum-half Antoine Dupont. Toulouse have such a rich history in this event – in its current guise and when it was the dear old Heineken Cup. They have always been the benchmark for others, as Leinster head coach Leo Cullen readily acknowledged.

Leinster take on Toulouse in Saturday's Champions Cup final at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

Leinster take on Toulouse in Saturday’s Champions Cup final at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

The Irish side have fallen at the final hurdle against French opposition in the last two finals

The Irish side have fallen at the final hurdle against French opposition in the last two finals

‘Toulouse are the standard-bearers of the competition,’ he said. ‘They were the ones out of the blocks first in terms of professionalism. They were light years ahead of us. We feel that we’ve been chasing them ever since.’

That is the mission again, but it is one that Leinster have managed well in recent years. In each of the last two Champions Cup campaigns, they have dispatched Toulouse in the semi-finals, as they also did in 2019 – although those victories all occurred in Dublin.

This season, Leinster have gained added resilience, pragmatism and nous, thanks to the rapid impact made by Jacques Nienaber, who arrived in the Irish capital after guiding the Springboks to another World Cup triumph. The meticulous South African, renowned as a master strategist, has brought a different dimension, to add to Leinster’s trademark attacking fluency.

They are at this stage after surviving a scare to beat Northampton at Croke Park in the semi-finals, following a vengeance victory over La Rochelle in the last eight. Toulouse’s path to the final featured emphatic home wins over Racing 92, Exeter and Harlequins. At their best, they have been utterly imperious. As for the old idea that French teams don’t like to travel, they made a mockery of that by beating Quins 47-19 and Ulster 48-24 away from home during the pool stage.

The marquee head-to-head sees Jamison Gibson-Park take on Dupont, in a contest between the world’s best two scrum-halves. They bring the energy, tempo and control which makes their teams tick. Elsewhere, Tadhg Furlong v Cyril Baille and Dan Sheehan v Peato Mauvaka will be stand-out duels up front.

But Leo Cullen's side have improved significantly since suffering heartbreak against La Rochelle last year

But Leo Cullen’s side have improved significantly since suffering heartbreak against La Rochelle last year

Toulouse demonstrated their class by dominating Harlequins to secure their place in Saturday's showpiece

Toulouse demonstrated their class by dominating Harlequins to secure their place in Saturday’s showpiece

Hugo Keenan is back from injury to rejoin Leinster’s top-class back line, but centre Garry Ringrose is still not available. Will Connors has been preferred at openside to Josh van der Flier. His presence on the bench signifies the calibre of this contest, as does the presence of Thomas Ramos and Julien Marchand among Toulouse’s reserves.

Ugo Mola’s side has a British flavour, with exiled England flanker Jack Willis at openside and Blair Kinghorn, the Scotland full-back, chosen ahead of Ramos. For Willis, this is an epic occasion which compensates for being locked out of Test rugby – and there is every chance he will finish with a winner’s medal as a cherished memento.

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