Special correspondent in London

Loud music spewed from a large speaker, a wild football game, the people of Toulouse discovered with joy and relaxation the superb Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, in the northern suburbs of London, scene of the Champions Cup final, this Saturday (3:45 p.m. ), against the Irish from Leinster. “We chose to keep our usual routines. Every day, we put on music during our training, this helps promote good humor, but that does not prevent seriousness and application on the pitch, says Antoine Dupont, the Toulouse captain. Ditto for the football game that the three-quarters play each time, while the forwards review their ranges. The Rouge et Noir seem impervious to pressure as they aim for a sixth continental crown. “The context will obviously be very special for this final but we must manage to keep this spontaneity which characterizes us,” insists Dupont.

One thing is certain: the Toulouse people do not arrive as expiatory victims, after having been beaten (dryly) by the Dublin players three times in a row in the semi-finals (2019, 2022, 2023). “The whole team learned and gained experience during these last semi-finals,” continues the best player in the world in 2021. “There, it is in the final that we find them, it will be a different context.” And to recall what had been the crippling black point during the last setback: “We know that discipline is very important in the final phase. We weren’t good in this area last year. We will have to be focused on that tomorrow and then put in a lot of intensity. But, without good discipline, it will be very hard. Last year, Toulouse conceded four tries after receiving two yellow cards.

The golden generation of Stade Toulousain knows that they are expected to turn the corner, that they must glean another title in addition to the three Brennus (2019, 2021, 2023) and the Champions Cup (2021) already added to the incredible list of prizes of the Haut-Garonnais club. Antoine Dupont, who is once again the favorite for the title of best player in the world in 2024, is playing the first big meeting of his season. To erase, for good, the disillusionment of the last World Cup which ended violently in the quarter-finals against South Africa.

This Champions Cup final will inevitably have a bit of a “Bok” flavor since Jacques Nienaber, former coach of the reigning double world champions, is now on the Leinster staff. With one notable change: the Irish will play with a 6/2 bench (six forwards, two backs), a sort of “bomb squad” with Irish sauce. “Nienaber has especially made the Leinster team evolve in defense, this is what has changed a little compared to the past,” notes Antoine Dupont. The club surely also went to look for him for his experience in the final stages and the matches that count.

And the Toulouse captain explains: “Above all, we will have to stay focused on ourselves, adapting to this team which has evolved a little in its game but which still does simple things very well, that’s what characterizes it. In her attacking game, she maintains this ability to keep the ball for a long time, to have very fast rucks and to rely on an effective kicking game. The trademark, too, of the XV du Clover which swept away the Blues in Marseille at the opening of the last Six Nations Tournament. But Antoine Dupont was not there, retained with the French 7s team for the Paris 2024 Olympics. The third stage of the Dupont rocket this year: the Champions Cup, the Top 14 then the Olympic Games. For a historic hat-trick?