Venue – Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Date: Friday, May 19
It would be a shame to overlook a game that some see as nothing more than an appetizer to the Leinster vs. La Rochelle game that will decide the European Champions Cup winner on Saturday. That would be a huge mistake, as this clash between Scottish side Glasgow and French giants Toulon has everything needed to make for a fascinating contest.
Glasow was in terrific form before losing to Munster in the URC quarter-finals at Scotstoun a couple of weeks ago. A red card really hurt them in that contest, and they were unable to get their shape and patterns working with 14 men until the game was already in Munster’s hands.
The importance of this competition to Toulon cannot be overstated either. This is a team that has flattered to deceive in the Top 14 this season, and one of the biggest names in world rugby now has put all its eggs in this basket. Not only would silverware help to placate a fanbase used to winning trophies, but it would also secure a route back into the Champions Cup for the 2023-24 season. That is where Toulon wants to be and where their fans expect them to be. This added pressure is something to consider when betting on this match.
This Glasgow team is based around homegrown talent and players complementing that rugged edge. The backline is outstanding, with captain Kyle Stein finishing tries that are created by the outstanding center painting of Sione Tuipolptu and Huw Jones. I also love the balance in their back row, with Matt Fagerson and Sione Vailanu getting around the pitch as well as any pair in the URC and Jac Dempsey – a ball-carrying machine – lining up at No. 8.
Toulon make no sense. They have been in the Challenge Cup final four times and have lost on all four occasions. This includes a pair of losses already this decade, going down to Lyon last year and Bristol in 2020. By contrast, they have won all three of their Champions Cup finals (albeit all in a row and with a pool of talent unmatched in world rugby at that time.)
The team is still star-studded. Cheslin Kolbe is the best at what he does in the world. Welsh stand-off Dan Biggar can move the team around the field, and the back row boasts Sergio Parisse – the best player his country has ever produced – and Charles Olivon, a player that will light up the World Cup on his own soil later this year. It is a mystery, therefore, why their Top 14 season has been so bad.
If Toulon comes out and plays to the sum of their parts, they should win. The issue is they just haven’t been that team this season. On the other hand, Glasgow has been tearing it up and was mighty unlucky in that URC quarter-final. With that in mind, I like the Scottish side to win this in an upset.