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Francis in line to join historic Welsh European club

Wales and Exeter Chiefs prop Tomas Francis

Francis in line to join historic Welsh European club

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Wales prop Tomas Francis is now just one match away from becoming the 13th Welshman to lift the European Cup after his Exeter Chiefs team reached the Heineken Champions Cup final.

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Francis appeared as a second-half substitute as Rob Baxter’s side blew away formidable French outfit Toulouse with a 28-18 semi-final victory.

He and his team will now face another French side in Racing 92 in the final at Bristol’s Ashton Gate on October 17 knowing they are just 80 minutes away from being European champions.

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Exeter have never won the Champions Cup and victory would see Francis join an elite band of Welshmen who have claimed glory in European rugby’s biggest club competition.

The Chiefs also have Francis’ fellow Welshmen Alex Cuthbert, Phil Dolman, Sean Lonsdale, Corey Baldwin and Tom Price on their books who will be in contention for a final spot.

Francis burst on to the scene at Exeter to earn a Welsh call-up and his exploits in Devon were enough to earn him a Test debut against Ireland in Dublin in August 2015.

Since then, the 28-year-old has gone on to earn 48 caps, scoring one try. He helped Wales to Six Nations Grand Slam glory in 2019 and a fourth-placed finish at that year’s Rugby World Cup.

His last Test appearance came in the Japan World Cup semi-final defeat by South Africa where he suffered a nasty shoulder injury.

Now back fit, Francis could yet end 2020 as a European winner and after that he will likely be a key figure for Wayne Pivac’s Wales in their Autumn Nations Cup campaign.

Francis’ fellow Wales squad members Liam Williams and Nick Tompkins were the last Welshmen to win the Champions Cup with Saracens against Leinster in May 2019.

Williams, now with the Scarlets, started on the wing with Tompkins an unused replacement.

There are also a number of Welshmen who are in contention to win this season’s European Challenge Cup with the final set to be contested by Bristol Bears and Toulon.

Pat Lam’s Bristol have former Wales Under-20 flanker Dan Thomas in their squad as well as young Wales Under-20 full-back Ioan Lloyd.

Prop Kieron Assiratti – who is on loan at Bristol from Cardiff Blues – could also be in line for a medal if he’s involved.

Welsh-qualified half-backs Harry Randall and Callum Sheedy are both certain to be in the matchday 23.

In total, 43 Welshmen have won the Challenge Cup previously.

Welsh Winners of the European Cup
1997: Tony Rees (Brive)
1998: Ieuan Evans, Nathan Thomas, Richard Webster (Bath)
2000: Allan Bateman, Andy Newman (Northampton Saints)
2004: Rob Howley (Wasps)
2005: Gareth Thomas (Toulouse)
2013: Gethin Jenkins (Toulon)
2015: Leigh Halfpenny (Toulon)
2019: Liam Williams, Nick Tompkins (Saracens)

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