Challenge Cup Final - Teams and Prediction
PREVIEW: Glasgow Warriors will be looking to cap off a revitalised season under Franco Smith with some silverware on Friday.
To do that, they will need to beat French side Toulon in the Final at Lansdowne Road in Dublin.
The French side have yet to win the second-tier competition, despite reaching the decider four times and taking the Champions Cup on three straight occasions in the last decade.
The Warriors, in their first continental Final, are eyeing both a first trophy since winning the Pro12 league in 2015 and Scotland’s first European success.
The Scottish side are a stronger unit under former South Africa flyhalf Smith and May 6’s United Rugby Championship play-off loss to Munster was only their second defeat since November in any competition.
“We’re sticking to what we do normally, but obviously there is that added wee bit of excitement going about,” said Glasgow lock Scott Cummings.
“We’ve talked about the effort we’ve put in throughout the year and having something to show for that.
“Franco has always said ‘You’ve not won anything yet’.
“We want to come home with a bit of silverware, that’s the most important part,” he added.
Scotland’s Cummings is set to come up against former Glasgow teammate and fellow lock Brian Alainu’uese.
The 132kg Samoa forward spent two seasons at Scotstoun before heading to the Cote d’Azur in 2018.
“Big Briz was really good quality here as well,” Cummings said.
“He had a couple of knee issues when he was here and that maybe meant he didn’t get some of the game time he was hoping for, but he’s a top-quality player.
“I haven’t messaged him, but I’m sure I’ll share a beer with him after the game,” he added.
Toulon’s most recent Challenge Cup heartache came last May, losing to fellow French side Lyon.
“It’s completely different. We’re focused on this one, to win it,” said Toulon scrumhalf Baptiste Serin.
“If you look back to the past, it’s not a good thing, it will make you frustrated. We’re focused on what we have to do in this final,” he added.
There will be tens of thousands fewer Toulon fans at Lansdowne Road compared to last season, when the game was played in Marseille, 65km up the Mediterranean coast from Stade Mayol.
“The stadium was full for the last final and we lost,” Serin said.
“It’s not a way to guarantee victory having your own fans there.
“We would have preferred the stadium to be chock-a-block with Toulon fans but we’re focused on the objective and not what surrounds the final,” he added.
Fresh from signing a contract extension with the club earlier this week, Fraser Brown comes in to start at hooker for Glasgow.
He is packing down between Jamie Bhatti and Zander Fagerson in an all-Scotland front row.
Scott Cummings starts alongside Jean-Pierre du Preez in the second row. The pair resuming the partnership that started the semifinal victory over the Scarlets in Llanelli.
An all-action back row sees Sione Vailanu and Matt Fagerson paired together on the flanks. Also in the back row, the tournament’s top carrier, Jack Dempsey, lines up at No.8.
Domingo Miotti is named in the No.10 jersey. Meanwhile, George Horne – scorer of more points this season than any other Warrior – starts at scrumhalf.
Sione Tuipulotu and Huw Jones combine in the centres, the former having been named in the United Rugby Championship Elite XV for 2022/23.
In addition, Kyle Steyn leads the side from the wing, with Sebastián Cancelliere and Ollie Smith rounding out the starting XV in an unchanged back three.
The tournament’s leading try-scorer, Johnny Matthews, is selected amongst the replacements for Glasgow Warriors. He joins Nathan McBeth and Simon Berghan as the front-row replacements.
Having made his 100th appearance in Glasgow colours last time out, Richie Gray rotates to the bench. Lewis Bean pulls on the No.20 shirt for his final appearance for the club before departing in the off-season.
Meanwhile, Rory Darge is another to switch to the bench after starting last time out as the loose forward completes the cohort of six forwards amongst the replacements. Alistair Price and Stafford McDowall complete the matchday 23 for the Warriors.
Speaking following his selection, head coach Smith told glasgowwarriors.org: “This week’s training has been highly competitive, with every player putting their hand up for selection and pushing each other forward.
“Toulon will provide a stern test, and they are a team that know how to play in finals rugby.
“We’re excited for the challenge that lies in wait and we know we need to be at our best in Dublin.”
For Toulon, Cheslin Kolbe will wear the No.15 jersey and is joined in the back three by Jiuta Wainiqolo and Gabin Villiere.
The midfield pairing consists of Waisea Nayacalevu and Duncan Paia’aua. Dan Biggar is at No.10 and his halfback partner is Serin.
In the pack, Sergio Parisse is at No.8 with Charles Ollivon and Cornell du Preez on the flanks.
Brian Alainu’uese and Mathieu Tanguy are in the second row with Beka Gigashvili, Teddy Baubigny and Dany Priso forming the starting front row.
@rugby365com: Glasgow by five points.
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Ollie Smith, 14 Sebastián Cancelliere, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Sione Tuipulotu, 11 Kyle Steyn (captain), 10 Domingo Miotti, 9 George Horne, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Sione Vailanu, 6 Matt Fagerson, 5 Scott Cummings, 4 Jean-Pierre du Preez, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Jamie Bhatti.
Replacements: 16 Johnny Matthews, 17 Nathan McBeth, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Richie Gray, 20 Lewis Bean, 21 Rory Darge, 22 Alistair Price, 23 Stafford McDowall.
Toulon: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Jiuta Wainiqolo, 13 Waisea Nayacalevu, 12 Duncan Paia’aua, 11 Gabin Villiere, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Charles Ollivon, 6 Cornell du Preez, 5 Brian Alainu’uese, 4 Mathieu Tanguy, 3 Beka Gigashvili, 2 Teddy Baubigny, 1 Dany Priso.
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Jean-Baptiste Gros, 18 Kieran Brooks, 19 Facundo Isa, 20 Mathieu Bastareaud, 21 Baptiste Paillaugue, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Jeremy Sinzelle.
Date: Friday, May 19
Venue: Lansdowne Road, Dublin
Kick-off: 20:00 (21.00 France time; 19.00 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referees: Chris Busby (Ireland), Craig Evans (Wales)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Sources: AFP & @GlasgowWarriors