Special Envoy to San Sebastián
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Toulouse, the regular of the finals
By strangling this Friday Racing 92 (41-14), at the Reale Arena of San Sebastian, Toulouse ended a small black series: the Red and Black remained indeed on three defeats in their last three semi-finals (two in the Champions Cup, one in Top 14 last year). Stronger, more efficient and more sure of their game, Ugo Mola's players have logically bent limited and inconsistent Ile-de-France players, just like their season. The flagship club of French rugby has qualified for the 29th championship final in its history, a national record ahead of Stade Français Paris (23). After two seasons without a title, the golden generation of Dupont-Ntamack will try to win, next week at the Stade de France, a 22nd shield of Brennus. Rugby lovers are waiting for a muscular reunion with La Rochelle, who will first have to overcome Saturday (17h) Bordeaux-Bègles. Good news of the evening: no injury is to be deplored among the French internationals.
Willis' huge slaughter
A little light on a shadow player. Arriving during the season as an additional player from Wasps placed in receivership, Jack Willis immediately acclimatized to Stade Toulousain and French rugby. Tough to evil, constant in his efforts, whether scratching or in his charges, the English international third line (10 caps) has, once again, shone under his new colors, in a conquering third line with François Cros and Alexandre Roumat. Against Racing, he was at the heart of the fight, precious and decisive, even if it is not the one we see the most. He left in the 60th minute to the applause of his supporters. Aware of having fallen on a good pickaxe, the Toulouse leaders were not mistaken: they extended the contract of the hyperactive flanker aged 26 until 2026. "I love being part of such an ambitious and hard-working group," Willis said at the time of his extension.
See alsoTop 14: on the way to the final, Toulouse crushes Racing
The war of rucks for Toulouse
The Racing pack was put to torment at the Reale Arena. Above all, Laurent Travers' players were totally dominated in the ground game and in the groupings. The Toulousains have indeed recovered an incalculable number of recovery balloons, as much ammunition that they have been able to make fruitful. In addition to Jack Willis, Ugo Mola has formidable scratchers in his squad, such as Julien Marchand, François Cros and Cyril Baille. The prospect of a possible final between Toulouse and La Rochelle (who face UBB on Saturday) is already salivating all fans of big fights and intense arm wrestling.
End clap for Laurent Travers
He was surely hoping for another exit. Sad clap of end as his team was messy and dominated. The managerial career of Laurent Travers - successful technician passed by Montauban, Castres and Racing 92 - ended this Friday with a defeat of the most logical against Toulouse. Before the match, he had admitted that there was emotion before what could be under last game on the bench of the Ciel et Blanc. Double champion of France as coach (with Castres in 2013 and Racing in 2016), the former hooker of CA Brive European champion in 1997 will now embark on a career as a manager, since he will become chairman of the board of the Altosequan club. A new page opens, after a busy coaching career.
Finn Russell through the back door
A day with, a day without. This Friday night, it was a day without. At Anoeta, Finn Russell has not been the playmaker his team expects of him. Rough kicks, clumsy forwards, bad choices, the Scottish opener thwarted against Toulouse. Not creating danger and uncertainty in the opposing defense. An exit through the back door for the one who is regularly decked out with the qualifier "whimsical". Next year, while English rugby suffers from a thousand evils, the number 10 of the XV of the Thistle will join Bath for a contract estimated at one million euros, thanks to the president-patron Bruce Craig. It will leave the Ile-de-France fans with the memory of masterful blows, but also of major counter-performances. As for his last match with Racing.
Racing's scrum has (again) suffered
The Racing forwards were jostled, shaken and manhandled throughout the game against Julien Marchand's teammates. This was one of their recurring weak points in their last outings, especially against Clermont and Stade Français, and they once again suffered in the scrum. If the touch remains effective, the melee of the Sky and White has shown signs of (great) feverishness. Difficult in these conditions to hope for something against the solid and well-honed Toulouse pack. The construction site is wide open, in this sector, for next season.