Lingering bitterness fuels Toulouse’s desire to retain the Champion Cup

Despite the five stars on their chests that mark their status as European rugby aristocrats, Toulouse’s bellies tomorrow will be fueled by a sense of enduring injustice that many Munsters of a certain age can certainly relate to.

Before completing their great odyssey of that early century, Munster’s quest had been plagued by occasional complaints against officials, whether against a linesman’s flag or unsympathetic match planners at European headquarters.

Despite the French’s status as champions – in 2021 they notched up victories in the first (1996) and final stages to proudly stand out with five titles and notwithstanding the galaxy of Grand Slam winners in their ranks, Les Toulousains seemed in this tenure often to be Les Misérables.

Fresh from a sideline dispute with La Rochelle’s Ronan O’Gara in a league game, Toulouse manager Ugo Mola gave his media critics a less-than-subtle dig as his side kept their domestic play-off hopes alive with a win.

“We look for motivation everywhere,” he raged. “But it’s true that your company’s journalists really went after all your advisers to try to say ‘the hole of Toulouse’ and we wouldn’t come out that it would be very complicated.

“That’s why we’re happy when we beat a team that’s in good shape or even very fit and then we go to Europe hoping that the environment in our area is a bit more positive than yours.”


Even their progress in Europe – where they were the most impressive standard-bearers in a competition not always backed by the overly domesticated top 14 animals – has not been without controversy.

That’s probably why their decorated former full-back and current defender coach Clement Poitrenaud – he the last-minute faux pas in the famous 2004 final defeat by Wasps – decided to throw a verbal volley into the fray yesterday.

“It’s interesting for us to play at the Aviva, the event will be special,” he said, blinking in French, before adding scathingly, “They’re not really at home. We hope to have supporters behind us this weekend.”

They feel like they should be at home.

Much of their complaint stems from the Covid controversies hampering competition in the pool stages when a string of unplayed games resulted in 28-0 wins for the opposition, with the French side suffering twice.

On one occasion, a refusal meant they were only given two points from a game against Wasps, but they were really stung when officials decided a Covid outbreak at their camp meant they were denied last December’s bonus points win over an unlucky Cardiff couldn’t repeat side in January tie.

This scenario kept them clinging to qualification until the last day, although it would have taken an unusual series of results to deny them a knockout spot.

Ironically, Munster ensured such worries were allayed with a nice win over Wasps.

However, they were eliminated in the second leg of their round of 16 match against group winners Ulster.

They threatened legal action over Cardiff’s cancellation and there was even government intervention; Ultimately, they let their anger explode on the pitch – twice the dying technique tries to prevail against Ulster.

As in Munster, champions can sometimes get even better when they’re bitter. Lingering bitterness fuels Toulouse’s desire to retain the Champion Cup

Fry Electronics Team

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