Saturday, May 2, 2015

European Champions Cup: Americas Players Final Review

For the first time in European rugby history a team has won the title three years in a row. French side Toulon defeated rivals Clermont 24-18 in a repeat of the 2013 final to make history. The match featured a notable amount of players from a diverse range of countries who are to be involved in Rugby World Cup 2015. Among them both Argentina and Canada had players involved. The Americas is the only World Rugby defined region yet to be allocated hosting rights to a World Cup but has the means to host with Argentina having a compelling case to do so in 2023. 

For the third year in a row Toulon are champions of Europe. The Mediterranean city side completed a well-earned victory against a Clermont Auvergne side which competed strongly before dropping off late in the match. In winning back-rower Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe became a three-time European champion while fellow Puma Juan Martín Hernández made up for losing the 2005 final with Stade Français by collecting his first Champions Cup title. 

Hernández was involved in today's final in the mid-field. He starting at inside centre and displayed moments of genius particularly with offloading in tackles. Fernández Lobbe was a surprise non-starter. The former Pumas captain entered the match from the bench in the 58th minute while Hernández left in the 66th. Canadian Jamie Cudmore started and finished for Clermont despite needing medical attention. 

For Cudmore it was a second European final and quite possibly the last. The player, though, has been offered an extended contract to play again next season for the club he joined in 2005. He is to turn 37 some twelve days before the start of this years World Cup. The tournament is to be Cudmore's fourth as is the case with Hernández while for Fernández Lobbe it will be his third. 

Toulon's victory puts the club on par with New Zealand Super Rugby franchise the Crusaders. The two are the only teams to have won professional rugby titles involving two or more countries three years in a row. Argentina is to join Super Rugby in 2016 with Nicolás Sánchez, who played for Toulon this season, among the signings. Sánchez was at Twickenham as was Martín Castrogiovanni who has been capped 110 times by Italy. 

Overall Toulon now moves into joined second position in terms of European titles per club. It moves ahead of the, Leicester Tigers, Munster and Wasps to be Tied with Leinster whose third title came in 2012. Toulouse leads the all-time list with four European titles, the most recent occurring in 2010.

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