Where and when?
In a rerun of last year’s finale, Leinster will once against face La Rochelle this Saturday to decide the winner of this season’s Heineken Champions Cup. Kick-off at the Aviva Stadium is at 4.45pm.
How can I watch it?
Build-up to the game begins on RTÉ 2 at 4pm on Saturday. The game is also live on BT Sport, if you are so inclined. As always, The Irish Times will have a live blog, plus a live report, analysis and reaction from our team at the Aviva.
How did we get here?
Leinster finished top of their pool without breaking a sweat, and similarly, moved through the knock-out phases of the tournament without too much hassle.
Their semi-final opponents, Toulouse, posed a threat, but ultimately were unable to contain the blue wave – Leinster ran out 41-22 winners in an assured display at the Aviva late last month.
On the other side of the competition, in Pool B, La Rochelle followed suit and topped the group. They have not lost a game in the competition yet.
Ronan O’Gara’s side were run the closest by Gloucester in their Round of 16 clash in April, when the French club advanced courtesy of a three-point victory. A 78th-minute try from Teddy Thomas was needed to clinch a smash-and-grab win.
However, subsequent knock-out ties against Sacracens and Exeter were less nervy affairs.
What happened last time?
It was of course this time last year, in the final of the Champions Cup, that these sides last met. Arthur Retiere broke Leinster hearts that day, denying the Irish club a fifth European crown, after he dived over the try line with minutes to go in Marseille.
Gerry Thornley wrote that day that “the scars of this defeat will take more healing than possibly any [Leinster have] ever endured in Europe”. For Leinster, they’ll hope that that healing process won’t infringe on Saturday’s performance.
What are Leinster’s chances?
Considering the form of both finalists in this competition, it is clear that the two best sides in European rugby are contesting this weekend’s final. What happens after the first whistle blows at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening remains to be seen.
Saturday’s loss in the URC semi-finals to provincial rivals Munster – and the death of the URC-Champion Cup double dream – may well have wounded their pride, but Leo Cullen’s charges now must have their sight trained on European rugby’s top prize. A chance to avenge last year’s painful final loss is all the motivation needed.
La Rochelle come into the tie off the back of a loss as well: a much-changed side were defeated 42-31 by Montpellier on Saturday.
Leinster released an injury update on Monday afternoon with plenty of positives despite the loss of Will Connors for next Saturday’s game after he went off early with a head injury in the defeat to Munster.
James Lowe has won his battle to return in time for the European decider and will train as normal this week.
Cian Healy (ankle), Rónan Kelleher (shoulder), Robbie Henshaw (quad) all came through last Saturday’s game with no issues, while backrow Scott Penny is also available for selection having come through the graduated return to play protocols from a head injury.
Vakhtang Abdaladze (neck), Ed Byrne (tricep), Rhys Ruddock (hamstring), Johnny Sexton (groin), Jamie Osborne (knee), Martin Moloney (knee) remain sidelined.
Regular starters Hugo Keenan, Jordan Larmour, Dan Sheehan, Tadhg Furlong and Caelan Doris were all rested by Leo Cullen over the weekend, and so are all in contention for this weekend’s tie.