Toulouse – Leinster. Report from as close as possible to Toulouse residents before the final: “To dare is to do”

From the departure for London on Thursday afternoon to the kick-off of a final which proved to be difficult, the Toulouse residents became convinced that the time had come to finally beat their beast nemesis. A dive and behind-the-scenes account of an exploit experienced from the inside.

You had to dare… Believe it, and above all convince yourself of it. But, if there is a virtue of this Toulouse generation, it lies in its ability to be as determined as it is uninhibited. Heartstring on which Ugo Mola danced, Saturday noon, when giving his last speech before heading to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, in reference to the motto of the local football club: “Yesterday, I spotted an inscription in this enclosure: “Audere is facere”. In Latin, it means: “To dare is to do.” Since we’ve been together, not one person has stopped you from daring. In this club, since childhood, we have been encouraged to be bold, impertinent and disruptive. You are all complete idiots (sic). Here, not a guy will have a normal life. I ask you to be yourselves. What they don’t have is madness and a heart like that. We’re going to win, guys.” Two days earlier, as he boarded the chartered flight to London, Peato Mauvaka already confided to us: “I know we’re going to be champions. I’m sure of it. But please don’t write it before the match.” And to laugh: “Then you can write a paper saying I told you so!”

Toulouse residents getting off their plane in London.
Jeremy Fadat

This deep conviction, well beyond simple confidence, has carried the Toulouse group since their victory in the semi-final. And only found an ever more anchored resonance in the hours preceding the appointment of a lifetime. Faced with this damn Leinster, the Source of too much misfortune in recent years, which it was necessary to finally bring down to establish its supremacy. No more suffering, on the condition of mastering a decidedly capricious destiny against this Irish ogre. It was still necessary to draw up the appropriate plan. But not necessarily perfect, as the term does not fit with an institution that advocates disorder and effrontery, to the point of pushing the staff and managers to improvise a meal that is, to say the least, “franchouillard” on Thursday evening after the traditional beer. of the president, in a lounge of the Melia White House where the Rouge et Noir were staying next to Regent’s Park, lulled by the slightly noisy music of “DJ Joe Tekori”. At this moment, and after watching the first semi-final of Pro D2 between Grenoble and Dax for some, the players were already in their rooms. They who had shifted since the very morning into another dimension after the tensions inherent in an event of such magnitude. “The last training session was very good before leaving Toulouse, better than at the start of the week, when we surely had to digest the announcement of the team composition for everyone”admitted Mola, who had spoken with Thomas Ramos, main victim of the starting XV, to explain the reasons for his choice.

“Perfect teams don’t win titles”

Saturday morning, the residents of Toulouse chose to carry out their physical activation in a small square a few hundred meters from their hotel, surrounded by Victorian-style buildings. First the reflexes worked through a fake game of padel won by Peato Mauvaka. Then the forwards repeated the combinations in touch, before Jean Bouilhou brought them together to slide: “Perfect teams don’t win titles. A great team is a team that manages shit. Last year, against Leinster, we couldn’t do it. Manage it this time, because ‘there will be, and we will be champions.’ There were indeed some on the pitch, when Richie Arnold was sent off at the end of the first overtime, when the suspense was almost wiped away…

The Toulouse residents rehearsing their touches on the morning of the final.
Jeremy Fadat

The previous evening, during the final collective meeting, Mola had presented to his men the scenarios to follow in the event of numerical inferiority and had even then sent the documents by PDF to all the players, in response to the requests of these last. Perhaps premonitory, given how well it was managed… Mola had thus insisted on “intenscipline”, namely the balance to be found between immense intensity and essential discipline: “This will be the crux of the matter.” And to warn, ironically taking Dorian Aldegheri as an example: “They’re going to provoke you. Doudou, you’re going to take a “nuquette”, for sure. But we don’t have to resolve anything individually. We’re going to be insolent but in our game. We’re going to blow them away with our rugby.” And President Didier Lacroix concluded the intervention with a… huge calbote behind Aldegheri’s head, provoking general laughter.

“It’s up to us to bring them back down”

It was written that no matter how slight it was, the Stadists were obsessed with the intention of writing their own history. “I told you things by saying that your generation had not had as much of an impact on the club as others.Mola promised his group. But very few have played like you. It’s time.” A coronation often fantasized about, now planned. And, if the bus had the wrong entrance to the stadium for the captain’s training on Friday and then arrived a good quarter of an hour late than the expected time on the day of the match due to London traffic and the lack of escort (recalling a certain Top 14 final won against La Rochelle…), this Toulouse had decided to brave and tame the hazards. Even sending a delegation led by Jérôme Cazalbou the previous week to the site, to take stock. And even to ship the players’ belongings and equipment for the first time on Wednesday to the English capital, where the manager Stéphane Pons took care of everything. Then let Jack Willis, the local of the stage, fluidify the relations in the language of Shakespeare with his compatriot of referee, Matthew Carley, during the traditional pre-match interview Thursday evening which was also attended by the staff, Antoine Dupont, Peato Mauvaka, Julien Marchand or Thibaud Flament.

Actors empowered, to the point of each presenting their direct opponent with a video montage and a few words, twenty-four hours later. And if everyone revealed valuable technical secrets, captain Antoine Dupont set the tone on the state of mind by talking about his opposite number Jamison Gibson-Park: “He’s talking a lot. It’s up to us to keep his mouth shut.” Same tone from François Cros, another leader of the group, when punctuating his presentation on Ryan Baird: “Like McCarthy, he’s the player that’s coming up on this team. So we’re going to bring them down.” The reigning French champions have been in mission mode on the European scene for ages. Driven by the desire to find the executioner of their legend and above all inhabited by the slogan printed by the staff and repeated at will: “In recent years, we have tried too hard to counter them and adapt to them. Now, it’s up to them to adapt to us.” A belief that has become a religion. Which found a certain echo on Friday afternoon, at the time of the announcement of the compositions, when Leinster formalized its option to place six forwards, for two and three-quarters, among its replacements. At this moment, Clément Poitrenaud could not hide a hint of satisfaction: “They are adapting and they fear us up front. If we hold on to this sector, we will have arguments afterwards.” Mola at his side: “This gives us a rather positive first indication. We will see but we are satisfied to have made this bench.” Namely a “5-3” supposed to be more complete and more talented, capable of promoting the creation of spaces in the final straight. On the condition of staying stuck to the score, what was said, repeated and hammered home. Then these words, again, from Mola to his men whose faces were now closed, less than three hours before kick-off: “We have to punish them. It’s your time.” A one-way ticket to glory…

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