Plenty of Kiwis involved in Champions Cup final

GettyImages 1397853620

The deeds of Jamison Gibson-Park and James Lowe have been well- documented as Leinster has swept all before it, although Lowe is battling a shin injury to be fit for the final.


However, La Rochelle has slipped under the radar ahead of the final at Stade Vélodrome in Marseille.


Former Ireland and British & Irish Lions five-eighths Ronan O'Gara coaches La Rochelle. He has made good use of his two years with the Crusaders. Former Hurricanes, Blues, and Māori All Black first five-eighths Ihaia West is at 10 while former All Blacks loose forward Victor Vito and halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow are also part of the side.


Much of the talk ahead of the final has centred on how West will cope with the task ahead.


It will be the second consecutive Champions final for the French club.


The spotlight has fallen on West with a perception of a goal-kicking weakness under pressure. That is despite him kicking seven out of eight attempts in their 32-23 semifinal win over Leinster last year and four from six penalty goals in their 17-22 loss to Toulouse in the final.



Midi Olympique said: "The Rochelle staff has placed a lot of trust in him because West is their best kicker. The fact remains that when we reach the last four, and even more so in the final, there are points opportunities that should not be missed.


"This is the biggest unknown, concerning La Rochelle. It's up to the former Auckland player to prove he's up to the task of competing with veteran Jonny Sexton."


Another comment was, "Probably the biggest unknown of the upcoming meeting, the last two finals contested by West have not frankly reassured about his ability to handle the big games."


West told the newspaper that while underdogs La Rochelle showed last year that Leinster were beatable, he hoped they had learned the lesson from last year's final loss.


"What is certain is that we will have to give everything in this match. Last year, it was a first, and we were like, 'Wow, we're here!' We wondered how we managed to get there.


"This year, we managed to confirm our place and we are less euphoric. We want to approach this final calmly and not worrying about how we are going to win," he said.


O'Gara said, "It's huge to be in the final for a second time. Stringing two finals together is great.


"This is the mentally strongest team that won," he said after they beat Racing 92 in their semifinal.


"We made progress, the players were able to find solutions, we finished after 80 minutes with a try, when normally we could have relaxed. It's interesting for me, as a coach, to have seen this game and to see how we can improve against Leinster," he said.



View all