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VIDEO: The non-PG half-time talk that sparked Stade Rochelais

Stade Rochelais kept alive their dream of a hat-trick of European titles, but the Champions Cup’s form team, Leinster, awaits them in Dublin this coming weekend.


The two teams that contested the last two finals – Leinster and La Rochelle – will face off in a quarterfinal at Lansdowne Road.

Leinster, a week after dismissing the Bulls 47-14 in a United Rugby Championship outing at the RDS, put English giants Leicester Tigers away ( 36-22) this past Saturday.

It makes for a massive encounter with Stade Rochelais in the last eight.

The French giants fought back from 0-13 down at half-time to defeat the Stormers 22-21 in an extraordinary Champions Cup Round of 16 match.

In their pool stage encounter back in December, the South African team defeated Stade Rochelais on the same ground by a score of 21-20 – with flyhalf Manie Libbok slotting a clutch conversion for the winner.

On Saturday in their Round of 16 face-off the Stormers nearly produced the same outcome – only this time Libbok’s last-minute conversion – which would have given his side another heroic win – drifted well wide of the uprights in a strong and swirling wind.


It saw Stade Rochelais advance to the quarterfinal, as they continue their search for a third straight title.

The former Irish and Connacht utility forward Ultan Dillane suggested that ‘parental guidance’ may be required to repeat what was said in the French team’s dressing room at the break.

“In summary, [the message was]: ‘What are we doing?’,” he said of the message from fellow Irishman and La Rochelle coach Ronan O’Gara.


“That was not us.

“We were throwing away a legacy, we were throwing away our potential with 40 minutes that wasn’t us.”

They were told in no uncertain terms to “pull the finger out”.

“We needed to show the people that came over here [to Cape Town] to show what we [Stade Rochelais] are really about,” the big Irishman said.

(WATCH as former Irish and Connacht utility forward Ultan Dillane and compatriot Donnacha Ryan review Stade Rochelais’ win over the Stormers and a rematch with Leinster….)

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However, they will now travel back to Dublin to face Leinster in a repeat of the last two finals and the pool match back in December – won 16-9 by the Irish province.

La Rochelle won the 2022 Final 24-21 in Marseille and last year triumphed 27-26 in Dublin.

Assistant coach Donnacha Ryan told @rugby365com they are comfortable with the additional travel – even before it was confirmed they would face Leinster again.

“We have learned a lot from that first trip,” the 47-times capped former Ireland utility forward said.

He added that you must ‘pitch up’ every week in Europe’s premier competition.

“We played Leinster on Sunday [December 10] and with a six-day turnaround it was tricky to get the players to recover before playing [the Stormers] on Saturday [December 16].”

Despite being far from perfect against the Stormers this past weekend, they will have another day of recovery and training for the return to Dublin.

“They are the challenges we embrace – going on the road,” he said.

Ryan said they will need to overcome their inconsistency – their biggest challenge this season – as they face Leinster in what is sure to be another classic humdinger.

“We need to put it all together, but we know we are a good team.

“The big takeaway for us is that we overcame the challenging conditions and found a way to win.

“We showed massive character.”


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