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Rugby

20th May 2023

Leinster vs. La Rochelle: All the talking points, biggest moments and player ratings

Patrick McCarry

Leinster were striving for that fifth star against the team that rumbled them last season.

Ronan O’Gara and La Rochelle once again stood in the way of the Champions Cup – and that fifth star – Leinster have strived for ever since they defeated Racing 92 back in 2018.

Since then, Leinster have reached two finals, and a semi-final, but have fallen agonisingly short of the gleaming goal. Both sides are going with the heavy-hitters and world-class stars for Saturday’s final.

Leinster started like a bat out of hell and led 17-0 after 12 minutes, only to be tagged back to 23-14 by half-time. There was plenty of heat out on the pitch, and in the tunnel, as Johnny Sexton was reported to be involved in an incident with Will Skelton [more on that below]. La Rochelle dominated the second half and would break Leinster hearts again.

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Leinster Champions CupJason Jenkins of Leinster, centre, celebrates with teammates Andrew Porter and Josh van der Flier. (Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile)

Leinster Champions Cup ambitions

Josh van der Flier was up for media duty, earlier in the week, and spoke of how the squad want to get that Champions Cup trophy for injured captain Johnny Sexton and departing players.

“Johnny has made this club the success it has been over the last number of years that he’s been involved,” he said.

‘There’s a number of players all throughout the squad,’ he continued. ‘Looking at the likes of Dave Kearney, he’s been there for so many of the great days with Leinster. James Tracy, who unfortunately had to retire earlier in the season, they all motivate you, you want to do it for them because they are part of that Leinster family.”

La Rochelle head coach Ronan O’Gara, meanwhile, is expecting Leinster to come roaring back after their URC semi-final defeat to Munster. “Their focus has been on winning Europe and they’ve made their plan that that was the team they were going for,” he said.

“It will be a completely different team, this weekend, from Leinster. We’re expecting the best version of Leinster and the best version of them is a formidable task. We know how difficult it is going to be, but we want to test ourselves against the best.”

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