All-French European Cup final an international event
DUBLIN - Agence France-Presse
Toulon’s English fly-half Wilkinson kicks the ball during a May 4 game. AFP photoIconic English fly-half Jonny Wilkinson will seek to add a continental crown to his honours when his Toulon club take on French rivals Clermont in the European Cup final on May 18.
The match at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium might be between two French Top 14 clubs, but on paper it is a truly international clash, with top players from across the globe ready to battle it out for the ultimate honour in northern hemisphere club rugby.
Clermont, with eight wins on the bounce and a squad of international superstars, are slight favourites, leading Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal to claim he has already accepted second place.
“We are up against a very impressive team,” Boudjellal said. “We would be stupid to think we are better than Clermont. So we are preparing to lose. We will be the runners up and it’s not that bad.”
Of course, the outspoken comic book tycoon is nothing if not mischievous with his words, and nobody else in the red and black will be expecting a loser’s medal on May 18 evening.
Clermont won 24-21 in the first league meeting this season, but the pair shared to spoils in a 26-26 stalemate in Toulon, indicating there’s not much between these two wealthy units.
Wilkinson scored 10 points when the sides last met, and the playmaker who booted England to a memorable World Cup victory in 2003 is certain to have a say in the outcome on May 18.
“There aren’t many teams in Europe that can claim anything like the amount of bulk Clermont have, but Toulon are definitely one of them,” said former Munster and Ireland backrower Alan Quinlan.
“If they can keep it nip and tuck, they have an ace up their sleeve, because for all their vast array of talent, I still come back to one man. I come back to Wilkinson.
“He just stands out. Clermont are a better-balanced team but Toulon have the match-winner in the number 10 shirt.”