Leinster will go in search of their fourth European trophy in five years when they face Stade Toulouse on Friday night, you can follow live score updates of this game right here.
The heavy favourites, also through to a Rabodirect Pro 12 Grand Final, will be eager to finish the season in style and make up for the heartbreak of relinquishing their hold on the Heineken Cup.
With the Heineken Cup set for the Aviva on Saturday, the RDS will be forced into playing second fiddle to its more illustrious counterpart but Leinster won’t mind one bit with the D4 set to be awash with blue as home advantage plays into Joel Schmidt’s hands.
The outgoing coach will be keen to end his reign in style with another European triumph and with Johnny Sexton also moving to pastures new the final promises to be an emotional affair.
While Leinster are going in search of their fourth success Stade Francais are hoping its fourth time lucky after European final losses in 2001, 2005 and 2011. Christophe Laussucq’s side finished the Top 14 season in 11th place and will need to win in order to secure Heineken Cup Rugby next season.
Despite being in their 2nd final in three years and beating Brive & Perpignan en route to the final Stade Francais will be very much the underdogs with Hooker Laurent Sempere admitting “that everything is against us”.
Player to watch:
Johnny Sexton: What better way to say goodbye and thank you then to guide your hometown club to European success. The British & Irish lion is poised to pass the 1000-point mark in a Blue Shirt. The French bound out half currently sits on 999 points after 108 appearances for Leinster. Sexton has a career total of 402 points in the Heineken Cup and he has increased that total a personal tally of 17 points including a try in the semi final win over Biarritz.
Sergio Parisse: The Argentina born Italian back-rower is captain for club and country. The 29 year old has only played in four games in this year’s tournament but two of those appearances have come in the knock out stages. Parisse has scored a total of 4 tries in 11 starts in the Amlin Cup since making his debut in the competition with Benetton Treviso in 2002.
Early team news:
Leinster will be without the inspirational Brian O’Driscoll, who today signed a new one year deal with the Province, and Gordon D’Arcy. O’Driscoll suffered a back spasm in the win over Glasgow last weekend while D’Arcy is suffering from a calf injury.
Despite suffering from a minor knee injury Fergus McFadden will replace D’Arcy with Ian Madigan coming in for O’Driscoll. Dave Kearney is named on the bench after his return to action following a 5-week layoff while Sean O’Brien is also expected to start after missing the Glasgow game with an ankle injury.
Sean O’Brien starts after missing the Glasgow encounter with an ankle injury, while Dave Kearney is on the bench after returning to action after a five-week absence. Richard Strauss and Leo Cullen suffered knocks in the Rabodirect Pro 12 semi-final but have been pronounced fit to play but will start on the bench.
Path to the final:
Early season struggles meant that Leinster’s Heineken Cup defence was always going to be difficult a narrow 9-6 win in their opening match at home to Exeter laying the foundation for a Pool campaign that saw them finish runners up to Clermont.
Runner’s up was not enough to progress but it was enough to secure Challenge Cup rugby in the later stages of the season.
While Leinster may be making a step down they have not taken their foot off the pedal scoring 92 points in the wins over Wasps and Biarritz.
Stade Francais meanwhile overcame the challenge of London Welsh, Grenoble and I Cavalieri Prato winning five of their six games scoring 210 points and 25 tries. In the knock out stages doubles from Waisea Vuidarvuwalu and Hugo Bonneval helped Stade to a 16 point win over Bath at the Rec while in the semi-final a dramatic late winner from Jerome Porical secured a 25-22 win over Perpignan.
Leinster knock out stages results:
London Wasps 28 – 48 Leinster
Leinster 44 -16 Biarritz
Stade Francais knock out stages results:
Bath 20 – 36 Stade Francais
Perpignan 22-25 Stade Francais
Irish interest not limited to Leinster…
Connacht will be interested spectators on Friday with a Leinster win guarantying Heineken cup rugby for the Westerners for a third successive season. The profile of Pat Lam’s side has increased as a result of their participation in the competition and while relations between the two provinces might be thorny after the Mike McCarthy affair a Leinster success would go a long way to healing wounds.