Having served an impressive nineteen years as Europe’s preeminent club rugby competition, the Heineken Cup bids the world adieu this Saturday as first-time finalists Saracens face off against French powerhouse Toulon in the competition’s final title decider at Millennium Stadium. Both finalists find themselves chasing a dream double title season with Saracens set to do battle against the Northampton Saints next Saturday for the Aviva Premiership crown, while Toulon feature in their third consecutive Top 14 final next week when they take on Castres in a repeat of last year’s decider.
To Win (80mins)
Saracens (+3) 17/20
Toulon (-3) 1/1
Saracens secured their spot in the momentous final with an impermeable defence and blistering attack that netted an impressive six unanswered tries in their semi-final clash with the formidable Clermont Auvergne, wrapping the game up 46-6 in front of a roaring Twickenham crowd. Their main focus for Saturday’s historic decider will be discipline, hoping to avert a repeat of last year’s disastrous semi-final loss to Toulon in which Jonny Wilkinson’s revered left boot claimed all 24 of his side’s points. Saracens’ biggest injury concern at the moment is skipper Steve Borthwick, who is in a race against time to recover from a pectoral injury picked up during their Premiership semi-final victory over Harlequins. Saracens will field a powerful forward pack boasting the likes of Billy Vunipola, Kelly Brown, Jacques Burger and Schalk Brits, and a venomous backline that includes talent such Alex Goode, Brad Barritt and Chris Ashton, but with a game that will ultimately be decided through the boot, Owen Farrell will need to be superb for his match defining showdown with his childhood idol.
After forcing their way past a determined Munster in the semi-finals with a 24-16 victory, Toulon heads into Cardiff this week hoping to become the first French side to ever successfully defend the title. And with point-machine Jonny Wilkinson set to hang up his golden boots at the end of the season, retaining the title would be a fitting swansong for his illustrious seventeen year career. No injury concerns have been reported by the defending champs, so we can expect to see all the big names such as Danie Rossouw, Juan Smith, Matt Giteau, Bryan Habana and Mathieu Bastareaud running out for Toulon in this emotionally charged final.
VERDICT: Toulon (-3) 1/1
With the abundance of talent taking to the field this Saturday we are in for some mammoth battles in key positions, such as Brad Barritt and Joel Tomkins going toe-to-toe with Mathieu Bastareaud and Matt Giteau, ex-Stormers hooker Schalk Brits taking on former Sharks star Craig Burden, and speedster Chris Ashton testing his abilities against veteran flyer Bryan Habana. But the most important contest will inevitably be between the two great English playmakers – Wilkinson and Farrell. Saracens have had a phenomenal season and proved last week that they know how to crash over the white wash, but Toulon’s brick wall defence won’t be as easy to penetrate. Toulon will be more composed than ever as they seek to secure a worthy send off for the game’s greatest number ten.
Think we’ve got it wrong? Well leave your comments below and tell us how you think this is going to play out.