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Stade Toulousain v Union Bordeaux Bègles - teams and prediction

PREVIEW: Toulouse superstar Antoine Dupont heads into Friday’s French Top 14 final with Bordeaux-Begles knowing it could kickstart a glittering mid-year that the scrumhalf will hopes has a golden lining.

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Dupont will lead the French club’s charge to a record 23rd league title, as well as a domestic and Champions Cup double almost a month to the day before a possible gold medal decider at the Sevens event of the Paris Olympics.

The 27-year-old former World Rugby player of the year started off the French and European season with defeat in the World Cup quarterfinal at the Stade de France.

Since that agonising loss, Dupont has successfully turned his hand to the shorter code of the game.

He was named Sevens ‘newcomer’ of the year after lifting the Los Angeles and Madrid legs of the series, while also managing to help Toulouse to a sixth Champions Cup crown in the 15-man code.

“Paris welcoming the Olympic Games was a big motor for the challenge,” Dupont told this month’s Tetu magazine.

“But it’s also come at a time in my career when I needed something new, to get out of my comfort zone, to put myself in danger.

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“Discovering a new environment, new teammates, a new system, has done me a lot of good and I think I’m blossoming in rugby,” he added.

Whatever the result at Marseille’s Stade Velodrome, with the Stade de France out of use due to Olympic preparations, Dupont will have circled July 8 in his calendar and the France’s sevens squad announcement.

“Physically, it’s going to be tough until July,” Dupont said.

“But I have an objective in my sight and I’ll rest afterwards.”

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Between Dupont and a second double in three years are Bordeaux-Begles, appearing in their maiden Final.

The team with the best average home club crowd were created in 2006 as Stade Bordelais and Club Athletique Begles Bordeaux merged.

They were promoted to the Top 14 five years later and have lost at the last-four stage in the past three seasons.

“For a long time we were crying, now we’re smiling and heading to Marseille,” club captain Maxime Lucu said.

“There was a lot of frustration, sadness, bad times with the club, people saying Bordeaux-Begles would never get further than the semis.

“We heard a lot but we kept believing,” added Lucu, Dupont’s understudy in the France squad.

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Prop problems

Both sides have suffered injury blows before the decider in front of a 67,000-sell-out crowd on the Mediterranean coast.

Toulouse’s loosehead prop Cyril Baille is out with an ankle issue and Bordeaux-Begles’ tighthead Ben Tameifuna has a shoulder problem.

“I think we’ve used 14 front-rowers this season,” Toulouse coach Ugo Mola said.

“We’ll have a great No.1, a great No.3, a great number 17 and a great number 23,” he added.

One boost for Lucu’s side in their hunt for a maiden Bouclier de Brennus title, which dates back to 1892, against the aristocrats of French rugby is their talented backline.

Bordeaux-Begles’ back-three of Louis Bielle-Biarrey, Damian Penaud and Romain Buros have scored 39 tries this season, more than double Toulouse’s all-international trio of Blair Kinghorn, Juan Cruz Mallia and Thomas Ramos, on 16.

“We’re looking ahead to Friday, they’re a big fish,” Lucu said.

“Toulouse are used to finals, to titles, we’re not.

“We will prepare to go there and do something great,” the 31-year-old added.

Head to head

Prediction

@rugby365com: Toulouse by six points

Top 14 Final prediction

Teams:

Stade Toulousain: 15 Thomas Ramos, 14 Juan Cruz Mallia, 13 Santiago Chocobares, 12 Pita Ahki, 11 Blair Kinghorn, 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Antoine Dupont, 8 Alexandre Roumat, 7 Jack Willis, 6 Francois Cros, 5 Thibaud Flament, 4 Richie Arnold, 3 Dorian Aldegheri, 2 Peato Mauvaka, 1 Cyril Baille
Replacement: 16 Julien Marchand, 17 Rodrigue Neti, 18 Joshua Brennan, 19 Piula Fa’asalele, 20 Paul Graou, 21 Matthis Lebel, 22 Paul Costes, 23 David Ainu’u.

Union Bordeaux Bègles: 15 Romain Buros, 14 Damian Penaud, 13 Nicolas Depoortere, 12 Yoram Moefana, 11 Louis Bielle-Biarrey, 10 Mateo Garcia, 9 Maxime Lucu, 8 Tevita Tatafu, 7 Pierre Bochaton, 6 Bastien Vergnes Taillefer, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Cyril Cazeaux, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Maxime Lamothe, 1 Jefferson Poirot.
Replacements: 16 Romain Latterrade, 17 Ugo Boniface, 18 Guido Petti 19 Mahamadou Diaby 20 Pete Samu 21 Yann Lesgourgues 22 Pablo Uberti 23 Lekso Kaulashvili
Toulouse Rugby Lineup

Date: Friday, June 28
Venue: Stade Vélodrome, Marseille
Kick-off: 21.05 (19.05 GMT)
Referee: Ludovic Cayre
Assistant referees: Thomas Charabas, Adrien Marbot
TMO: Eric Gauzins

 

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