European Rugby Champions Cup: Toulon can claim third successive title with Clermont win
Simon Mail thinks Toulon can land their third consecutive European title by edging past French rivals Clermont at Twickenham...
"Toulon claimed a 27-19 win in Clermont back in November in their most recent meeting which could give them a slight edge."
Toulon v Clermont
Saturday May 2, 17:00
Live on BT Sport 1 and Sky Sports 3
It is an all-French affair at Twickenham where Toulon are bidding to become the first club to win Europe's elite tournament three years in a row. Last season's Heineken Cup winners will face Top 14 rivals Clermont Auvergne in a repeat of the 2013 final. There was only one point between the sides then and it could be every bit as close this weekend.
Toulon have been a class apart in Europe over the last three seasons. The French giants landed their first Heineken Cup triumph in 2013 with a dramatic 16-15 win over Clermont and defended their trophy with a 23-6 victory over Saracens 12 months ago. Toulon are on a mission to make history but were pushed all the way, needing extra time to defeat Leinster 25-20 in their semi-final. This was their eighth consecutive knockout win.
Clermont are still looking for their first elite European title and will feel this is their time after an exceptional run to the final. After coming through an extremely tough pool featuring Saracens and Munster, Clermont destroyed Premiership champions Northampton in a 37-5 quarter-final rout. The side also got the better of Sarries as they avenged last year's thrashing by edging past them 13-9 in the last four.
Toulon start as narrow favourites but there is little to choose between the defending champions, who are first in the Top 14, and their closest challengers domestically. Toulon claimed a 27-19 win in Clermont back in November in their most recent meeting which could give them a slight edge. Clermont also have to overcome the demons of their last visit to Twickenham where they were thrashed 46-6 by Saracens. But this should be exceptionally close, much like the final two years ago, with Toulon's recent European success expected to make the difference.
Back Toulon to win by under 12.5 points in the Sportsbook at [2.5]
European Rugby Challenge Cup Final
Edinburgh v Gloucester
Friday May 1, 19:45
Live on BT Sport 2 and Sky Sports 1
The second tier European tournament comes to a conclusion this weekend with Gloucester favourites to prevail over Edinburgh at the Stoop. The Cherry and Whites have struggled for consistency domestically this season, sitting ninth in the Premiership. But their form in this competition has been much more impressive as they bid to end the campaign with silverware.
Gloucester's results in the Challenge Cup have been a marked improvement on their league form with wins in all eight matches. Admittedly the quality of opposition has not been to the same standard but David Humphrey's side had to work hard to battle past Connacht 14-7 in the quarter-finals. It was an all Premiership clash in the last four where Gloucester defeated Exeter Chiefs 30-19.
Edinburgh are hoping to create history by becoming the first Scottish club to win a European competition. Their form in the Pro12 would not offer a great deal of optimism as the side are down in ninth position. But Edinburgh have flourished in the Challenge Cup with seven wins and just one narrow defeat to Lyon. An impressive victory at London Irish in the last eight was followed by a comfortable home win over Newport Gwent Dragons which clinched their final place.
Gloucester will have happy memories from the Stoop where they won the European Challenge Cup with a victory over London Irish in 2006. While Edinburgh may feel the weight of expectation from a nation, the Cherry and Whites could be more relaxed due to their previous success and home country advantage. Gloucester have have won their last three matches in the competition by no more than 11 points so a narrow English triumph is worth backing.
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