7 Jun, 15:39
ERC can confirm that the Federation Française de Rugby (FFR) has withdrawn its application to host the 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals, due to the ongoing uncertainty regarding the availability of the Stade de France.
I felt that the key to the Toulouse versus Biarritz Olympique match would be defence and on the day that turned out to be the case.
The key difference was that Biarritz were getting stopped on the gain-line almost all the time, whereas Toulouse were making ground throughout the match.
Toulouse's defence was hardly ever breached on the day, and they conceded very few points as they won the match. That is the sign of a good side. They showed a huge amount of discipline, and that proved crucial in them reaching the final.
Biarritz on the other hand simply didn't. They put a lot of onus of the kicking on Dimitri Yachvili - who isn't a recognised goal kicker - and, unfortunately, he missed a few pots at goal.
Biarritz will have come away from this match having learnt some painful lessons, not least that they need to have a halfback pairing capable of dominating games. Patrice Lagisquet's selection policy is questionable; they should have gone into the game with two recognised goal-kickers. I'm sure a lot of finger pointing will be done in the direction of Yachvili, but I don't think he is to blame for the loss.
The game swung in Toulouse's favour when Isitolo Maka came on. With one of his first touches of the ball he flattened Serge Betsen - a player who had been putting in tackles all over the park and had dominated the backrow play. Maka's involvement game Toulouse added potency going forward.
Toulouse have discipline and defensive skills that are second to none in the northern hemisphere and they have an ability to release the ball in contact that makes them very dangerous. They are very reminiscent of the Leicester side I coached to back-to-back Heineken Cup final successes.
I had made Toulouse the favourites right from the start of the competition, but, having seen how London Wasps played against Munster, I might change that opinion.
The Munster versus Wasps match was something special, the pick of the bunch. It was a game that had highs and lows, and took you through a whole range of emotions. In the end the match was won because of Munster's lack of discipline and Wasps' ability to capitalise on those mistakes.
The match was a real cracker. I was gripped. At the point where Wasps had scored three tries to nil and Munster were still in with a shout I thought it would be a travesty if Munster had won. Then Munster scored two good tries from Foley and Williams and I felt that should Munster sneak it and that it would have been a worthy win.
But Wasps haven't got to where they are today without team spirit, and they continued to play their rugby with discipline and a focus on defence. However even the coolest heads get hot in the heat of battle and there were four people sent to the sin-bin. Ultimately this hurt Munster more, and that was where the match was won and lost.
London Wasps epitomise exactly what is great about English rugby. They play a hard- nosed, abrasive game led from the front by people such as Dowd, Leota and Green, backed up by Shaw, and an awesome back row of Worseley, Volley and Dallalgio.
Couple that with a back line filled with international class stars who run fantastic angles at will. And you have a complete team that has the ability to grind down teams from the front and then deliver a knock-out blow with lighting speed.
It's going to be a fabulous final because Toulouse have the same abilities.
For their part Muster are the perennial bridesmaids in European rugby. You can find some teams getting into a losing habit, and unfortunately, I think this is what has happened here. I think Munster need a couple more players in the Jim Williams mould. Hard nosed leaders who know what it takes to go out and win. But they haven't got as many players of that type as they need.
Had Wasps lost at the weekend, I didn't feel that Munster had the capability to beat Toulouse. I think that now the two finalists are known, it's set up perfectly for a cracking final and it should be one hell of a game.
NEXT WEEK - Deano takes a detailed look at the two finalists...