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ERC can confirm that the Federation Française de Rugby (FFR) has withdrawn its application to host the 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals, due to the ongoing uncertainty regarding the availability of the Stade de France.
Toulouse have the most balanced side in the northern hemisphere. They are strong in every department, with explosive backs. To reach two successive Heineken Cup finals is a very significant achievement. Believe me, I know just how hard it is to do that.
In my eyes, this Toulouse team is probably the most outstanding side in European club rugby over the last three seasons.
If you look at the front five, or the back row, you will see no weak links. They have a pack that works together to grind out results.
They have backs that work well as a unit, running fantastic angles, and that have the pace and power to unlock defences. Crucially, Frederick Michalak looks to be back to full fitness. He is becoming a real general on the park and his game is getting stronger and stronger.
Not that London Wasps don't deserve to be in the final. Just like Toulouse, they worked extremely hard to battle through the Pool stages and then overcome some some tough knockout opponents in Gloucester and Munster.
Wasps are a side who have been building towards this moment for the past few seasons. They flattered to deceive last year, but have now really come in to their own under the guidance from the sidelines of Warren Gatland and on the pitch from Lawrence Dallaglio.
They are the the best side in English rugby, with a similarly strong pack as Toulouse. They will miss Craig Dowd and his absence is probably going to cause them a problem. But their back five are capable of dominating any five in any competition, in any country - they are that good!
And when you look at their back division you have to admire how well marshalled they are by Alex King. He has formed a very powerful and influential partnership with Rob Howley at half-back.
It there are any weaknesses in the side I guess you would have to look at their back three. Having said that, Mark Van Gisbergen and Tom Voyce can be top players on their day.
Wasps have always had a Heineken Cup Final victory in their sights. They have been planning for this day for some time now. Before Warren Gatland took over, Nigel Melville and Dean Ryan laid the foundations of the current side. Warren took the reins and has taken the side forward with steely determination. They have a settled side which has proved it is capable of winning big championships.
It is interesting that Wasps have won the toss to use the home dressing room, it could prove to be a big advantage if they play their cards right. There are a number of England internationals in the Wasps side, and they should find they are quite comfortable in their environment.
In the 2002 final at the Millennium Stadium, Leicester had to use the supposedly 'unlucky changing room'. We decided to try and make it as familiar to the players as possible, so we went about putting photographs of Leicester on the walls, and made up name badges for where the players kit's were. The whole effect was that the players felt at home, as if it were the changing room at Welford Road. From our point of view it worked very nicely.
The day itself will be quite dramatic, one hell of an occasion.
Walking out onto the pitch really is a special feeling. The adrenalin runs round your veins, and the noise can be all consuming as thousands of fans shout and scream, baying for blood.
It's an incredible and emotional time, unless the players can control themselves, it can be overwhelming. The side that keeps their head in the pressure cooker of the opening minutes will put themselves in an advantageous position.
I believe it will be a flowing game with plenty of rugby being played. Both sides like to attack and use the ball.
WHO WILL WIN?
Throughout the tournament I have been making predictions about matches, and I've done reasonably well. But this is a match I can't honestly say who will win.
The game itself could go either way, It will be very very tight. and it could be a 'non rugby' factor that settles the match. The weather is always important, as is the referee. A lot depends on weather he allows quick release or not. The side that adapts to the referee quickest will profit from that.
And of course it depends on how the teams play and adapt to the occasion. Of course there is always the possibility that one team could have stinker - but there is so much experience in these two teams that I don't think that will happen.
I believe it will be a flowing game with plenty of rugby being played. Both sides like to attack and use the ball. I'd like to say Wasps will win, but it is too close to call.
The battle for this game will be fought in the scrum. With Craig Dowd out I think Toulouse will be looking to pile on the pressure in that department, if they gain the upper hand, Wasps are going to be in trouble, however if Wasps achieve parity, then that could tip the balance the way of the London side.
THE GREATEST CLUB COMPETITION
I have watched The Heineken Cup grow and grow over the past nine years. It is now, without question, the best club competition in the northern hemisphere.
The games are comparable to international matches, both in terms of the standard of rugby and the drama.
The last few Heineken Cup finals, in particular the two I was involved with in 2001 and 2002, were truly remarkable, and I expect this weekend's showpiece to be exactly the same.
What a competition we have had this year, it has kept me and my friends glued to our seats on the match weekends, now it's time for the big one, London Wasps v Toulouse, the battle of the champions.