World Cup-winning Bok Cheslin Kolbe has encouraged his Toulouse teammates to ‘crack open’ the European Champions Cup final against La Rochelle on Saturday.
In the sixth all-French final in Champions Cup history, the Top 14’s two leading teams will battle for European glory when Toulouse – chasing an unprecedented fifth title – take on La Rochelle at Twickenham.
‘I think it’s going to be a game where discipline and defence are probably going to be some of the key factors in the match,’ Kolbe said.
‘Whenever there are opportunities for us as players – within the structure – to capitalise on, we also need to bring our own natural abilities to the game, to hopefully crack it open some other way.’
La Rochelle, who conceded the fewest points in the Top 14 this season, will be making their debut in the top-tier final after beating four-time winners Leinster in the semi-final.
Three-time champion Will Skelton joined La Rochelle, who were only promoted to the Top 14 seven years ago, at the start of the campaign after a trophy-laden spell with Saracens.
‘Rugby is massive in this town. It’s not the biggest, it’s a small community. They go mad for rugby here,’ said the Wallabies lock.
‘When we pulled up against Leinster, I didn’t expect it. We had around 1,000 people just (at the stadium before the game), which I’m not sure is Covid-friendly but it revved us up for the game.’
Former All Blacks loose forward Jerome Kaino will likely lead Toulouse in the absence of regular captain Julien Marchand, banned for a dangerous tackle in the last-four victory over Bordeaux-Begles.
‘I never thought that I would have the opportunity to play with such a legend as Jerome. He’s just so experienced; he’s achieved so much throughout his rugby career,’ Kolbe said.
‘For me he’s just a phenomenal player but more so a great man, someone I’ve always looked up to by the way he’s played as well, just being as physical as everybody knows him.’
Facing Kaino will be a former All Black and fellow double World Cup winner Victor Vito, as the pair battle for a maiden Champions Cup title.
‘Victor’s awesome. His experience is massive for this team,’ Skelton said. ‘He’s one of our leaders, and I extract as much as I can from him when we’re one-on-one.’
A sell-out crowd of 10,000 will be at Twickenham as England loosens its lockdown restrictions. Kolbe and Vito last played in front of fans in the autumn before a second wave of Covid-19 hit France.
‘It will be massive for us just to have people there. Hopefully we get a few La Rochelle fans. I know the Toulouse community is quite big,’ Skelton said.
‘Hopefully, we can get a few chants in with our black and yellow going on.’
Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images