Stade Toulousain – Leinster in the Champions Cup final: the boss’s jersey too big for Byrne? Or the difficult succession of Sexton

Stade Toulousain – Leinster in the Champions Cup final: the boss’s jersey too big for Byrne? Or the difficult succession of Sexton
Stade Toulousain – Leinster in the Champions Cup final: the boss’s jersey too big for Byrne? Or the difficult succession of Sexton

the essential
While the shadow of Johnny Sexton still hangs over Leinster, Ross Byrne, his successor at the opening, does not offer as many guarantees. Analysis with several speakers before the match, this Saturday May 24, 3:45 p.m., in the Tottenham footballers’ den in London.

He was a guide. With his aura and his experience, Jonathan Sexton had as much influence on his team’s play as he could influence the referees. 14 seasons spent at international level (118 caps with Ireland, 6 with the British Lions), consciously or unconsciously, that’s respectable. All good things come to an end, and even if it was later than the others, the Leinster fly-half was caught up by time, hanging up his boots during the last World Cup, at the age of 38, after seeing the All Blacks suddenly closing the doors of the quarter on his beloved Ireland.

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“We lost a great voice in the locker room, someone who had a very high knowledge of the game. Any team would miss him,” recognizes his former hinge partner Jamison Gibson-Park. Should we see this as a boon for Stade Toulousain? “When a player like that leaves, obviously, in terms of leadership, taking responsibility, it changes a little,” admits Dimitri Yachvili. “Johnny Sexton was an iconic player, the cornerstone of the whole Ireland and Leinster team, capable of turning a match on its head at the last minute. Although Ross Byrne is a good rugby player, he “For the moment, he is not of Sexton’s caliber”, judges David Skrela for his part on the subject of the 29-year-old fly-half, 23 caps with the XV of Clover but who missed the Tournament this winter due to injury.

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However, the two former French international halfbacks agree on one thing: Byrne’s chance to play in the Dublin province. “He is surrounded by a team who knows each other by heart, he is a winning machine,” continues Skrela. Yachvili confirms: “The Leinster collective and their playing system mean that Sexton or not, it doesn’t change much.”

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Penalties, his Achilles heel

A little over a year ago, when they swept Stade Toulousain in the absence of the injured “master”, it was indeed Byrne who had guided his team to the final, notably displaying an insolent success at the foot . But it was in the semi-final, not in the final where his performance against the Rochelais was less successful although still at home, at the Aviva Stadium. A question of opponent? Depression ? We should know more tomorrow.

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“I think he has the full measure of the position,” judges Yachvili. Now, going after Sexton, like going after all the great players, in all sports, is never easy because there is a comparison which is made while they are not comparable The only difference is the regularity on penalties There, that can play a role. a scorer. But in the final, a conversion or a missed penalty can make the difference.”

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Will Byrne, who has a 71% success rate against the poles after having left quite a few points on the way against Northampton in the previous round, be up to the challenge? It is up to the people of Toulouse to give him as little comfort as possible to avoid it.

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