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ERC can confirm that the Federation Française de Rugby (FFR) has withdrawn its application to host the 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals, due to the ongoing uncertainty regarding the availability of the Stade de France.
His side's comprehensive 37-8 three-try victory over Harlequins in the Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final at a raucous Mayol which included 17 points from the boot of Jonny Wilkinson in the first half alone, sets up a clash of French heavyweights in the last four.
Laporte wasn't sharing his views with the media following Toulon's impressive performance, but his captain, Joe van Niekerk was relishing the prospect of coming up against Stade. "The fact that we have home advantage is massive and while I'd much prefer to be going into the game as underdogs, and while I can't admit here that we're favourites, the fact that we're playing at Mayol is huge," said the South African back row.
"A match like a semi-final is always in the balance on the day and we know that Stade Francais are an excellent side, but we're determined to win silverware after the disappointment of last season. And while we were beaten by a better side in the Cardiff Blues in the 2010 Amlin Challenge Cup final, that game hasn't been forgotten by many of the players, so we badly want to win this tournament this year," added Van Niekerk.
Laporte's assistant coach Pierre Mignoni was less effusive that Van Niekerk, but he was still prepared to praise the Toulon players for what in the end was a demolition of the tournament holders. "We were extremely efficient, and now we've got Stade Francais in the semi final and we know eachother really well, so of course it won't be easy," said Mignoni. "But it's a match we have to win because we have set our sights on playing the Amlin final in London in May."
What is certain is that Mayol will be jammed again on 27 April and Laporte won't be the only one retracing his steps in the build-up to what is certain to be full-on encounter. Toulon centre Mathieu Bastareaud will be up against his old club while Stade's George Smith, Felipe Contepomi and Paul Sackey, will all be making a return to Toulon.