Toulouse vs La Rochelle : The six sides still in with a shot at the Bouclier de Brennus – Racing 92, La Rochelle, Lyon, Montpellier, Clermont and Toulouse – are bursting with Guinness Six Nations talent.
Top 14 Rugby
Toulouse vs La Rochelle
Date : June 8, 2019
Start Time : 20:00 BST
Toulouse vs La Rochelle
Stalwarts of the France side are set to lead their domestic sides into battle, backed in part by a sprinkling of foreign stardust, as this weekend’s quarter-finals near.
Racing royalty look to end La Rochelle fairytale
The first of the quarter-final clashes – the winner of which will be rewarded with a last-four match-up against Toulouse – sees the star-studded Racing host plucky La Rochelle in a David vs Goliath style contest.
That is, at least, when placed in recent context: Racing are one of the giants of French rugby, six-time Top 14 champions who can boast the likes of Teddy Thomas and Finn Russell among their ranks, while La Rochelle were only promoted to the top flight five years ago.
With the Champions Cup final on the menu this weekend, it’s easy to forget that there’s actually a second clash taking place at Newcastle: the Challenge Cup final.
While the Saracens v Leinster match-up is no doubt the main course, the French will be serving up a mouth-watering entrée on Friday evening in the form of Clermont v La Rochelle.
Both sides are stacked with talent from around the globe, and even if you aren’t a fan of French rugby, the opportunity to see some of your nation’s old representatives should be enticing.
Newcastle – Up against Clermont’s scarred veterans in the European Challenge Cup decider, La Rochelle will start their debut final shorn of one their pillars of experience, captain Victor Vito.
The 32-year-old back-row forward is out of Friday’s final in Newcastle with a shoulder injury with his place taken by French international Gregory Alldritt.
Physically Alldritt can fill the hole left by Vito. He is only one centimetre shorter, at 1.91 metres, and at 115 kilogrammes, is three kilogrammes heavier. But he is 10 years younger, and despite five French caps, far less experienced.
While Vito has collected two World Cup winner’s medals with New Zealand, the youthful Alldritt, like his club, has never appeared in a major final.
La Rochelle’s players have spent the run up to the final dealing with the issue of experience.