Toulouse's Ntamack gearing up for 'dream' Champions Cup final

rugby23 May 2024 03:09| © AFP
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Romain Ntamack © Gallo Images

France fly-half Romain Ntamack has put the disappointment of missing the World Cup behind him and is focussing on Saturday's "dream" Champions Cup final in London when his Toulouse side come up against Leinster, the giants of Irish rugby.

In anyone's book this is a final to savour.

In one corner Toulouse, the most successful team in the history of the competition in its several incarnations, having won five times since it began in 1996, when they beat Cardiff in the final.

In the other corner Leinster, the next most successful side with their fourth title coming in 2018, since when they have been runners-up three times.

"Playing a final against Leinster, who are the second most successful team in Europe after us, has got everyone drooling," the Toulouse-born Ntamack told AFP.

“It'll be a dream final if we're lucky enough to win at the end."

The contest is given added spice in that Leinster have beaten Toulouse thrice in the semifinals since 2019, including the last two years when the Irish side went on to lose narrowly on both occasions to another French team, La Rochelle.

"Leinster haven't done us any favours in recent years," said the 25-year-old stand-off whose father Emile Ntamack captained Toulouse to victory in that inaugural final 28 years ago.

"These matches will be on our minds. We're going to analyse them and try to build on everything that didn't work out to put in a better performance this time."

One of the strengths of the Toulouse side is that they have been together a long time, a large number of them, including Ntamack, coming through the academy.

This has enabled coach Ugo Mola, and his predecessors, to draft in young talent without a noticeable or lasting drop in performance.

This is the generation of Ntamack, Antoine Dupont, Thomas Ramos, Cyril Baille and so on, the names dropping off the tongue like an international Who's Who in a side that has won three of the last four completed Top 14s.

“This generation wants to win everything, all the time," said Ntamack.

"We all love this club. Most of us were brought up here and we're going to do everything we can to continue to make it grow.

"There's a real osmosis and complicity between the players, both on and off the pitch. Every player wants to make an effort for his teammate. Everyone's in the mood."


That 'complicity' has enabled the current squad to develop its own sense of unity and, it would appear, destiny.

"The group as a whole hasn't changed much in the last six, seven years. Most of the key players are still here.

"Experiencing great moments like Top 14 finals or semifinals, even if we lose, gives us more experience. We're able to approach these kind of decisive matches with more serenity. And we're able to find resources that we might not have had before.

"It's true that we exude something that makes us confident of our strength but I think we can still do a lot better."

For Ntamack on a personal level, Saturday will present a wonderful opportunity to sign off this season on a high after the most devastating low of his career thus far.

During France's World Cup warm-up win over Scotland in Saint-Etienne last August, he ruptured cruciate ligaments in his left knee. It was a second successive World Cup he would miss through injury, although this one hurt more because it was at home in France.

"All the work I put in during my rehabilitation – I experienced a really tough several months – is paying off today," he said.

He insists, though, his eyes are firmly fixed on what lies ahead rather than the missed opportunities of the past.

"I've already put it behind me," he said

"Whether I win or lose in the final, it won't erase anything I experienced during my injury.

"I tried to make the most of it and I still try to do that every day. I'm looking forward to the future."