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Dan hoping to be the Man for Toulon in Dublin

Dan Biggar

Dan hoping to be the Man for Toulon in Dublin

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Dan Biggar carries Welsh hopes in the biggest weekend in European club rugby when he plays for RC Toulon against Glasgow Warriors in the ECR Challenge Cup final at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin.

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The Wales and British & Irish Lions outside half has yet to feature in a European rugby final and will be hoping to add his name to the list of 45 others who have won the title down the years. Wales teammates Gethin Jenkins (2013) Leigh Halfpenny (2015) both won the Heineken Champions Cup while playing with Toulon.

With Biggar on board, and the brilliant Springbok star Cheslin Kolbe at full-back, Toulon will be start as firm favourites to beat Glasgow and lift the second-tier trophy for the first time having fallen at the final hurdle four times before – against Cardiff Blues (2010), Biarritz Olympique (2012), Bristol Bears (2020) and Lyon (2022).

They have, of course, won the Heineken Champions Cup three-times (2013, 2014, 2015), making their appearance in Dublin their eighth European final in 14 years.

The French giants also have the ageless – well, 39, actually – Sergio Parisse at No.8, the South African turned Scottish international Cornell du Preez at blindside, and the Fijian flier and Olympic gold medal winner Jiuta Waainiqolo on the wing.

Toulon’s average of four tries per game in this tournament in actually less than Glasgow’s average of five, but it’s in defence that the French club may have the edge. The Warriors have conceded an average of 20 points per game, while mean old Toulon have given up an average of just 14.

Biggar aims to help them change that and says: “Everybody wants to be playing in the Champions Cup, but the club has never won this title before and have lost in four finals.

“We’re aware of the importance of this match for this club, president and supporters because it is a competition they have had some pain in. To achieve success would be a good starting point for the club and for me to come in and have some influence on the group and success to start.

“It doesn’t take the pressure off because we want to be competing for bigger honours. But for what we have at the minute, it would be an important step for the club who are looking to push on over the next year or two.”

The Scarlets did well to reach the semi-final stage, but they were well beaten, 35-17, by a vibrant Glasgow who are capable of shocking their French opponents if they reach those heights again. They also overcame the South Africans, the Emirates Lions, 31-21 in the quarter-final and absolutely hammered the Dragons, 73-33, in the round of 16.

Like the Scotland team, the Warriors’ rugby is high pace, high octane stuff with hooker Johnny Matthews a player who likes to get among the tries. Matthews is the leading scorer in the tournament so far with seven – five of which came in the game against Newport.

But Matthews starts on the bench on Friday with Fraser Brown picked ahead of him. Glasgow also have the Scotland centre pairing of Huw Jones and Sione Tuipulotu in midfield and the finishing power of Kyle Steyn out wide.

If they win, then Glasgow would become the first Scottish side to lift a European trophy and they have already clinched a place in the Heineken Champions Cup next season after a fourth-placed finish in the United Rugby Championship (URC).

All that in South African coach Franco Smith’s first season in charge.  Those with long memories in Welsh rugby will remember Smith once played outside-half for Newport in pre-regional days.

WALES’ EUROPEAN WINNERS

Heineken Champions Cup

1997 – Brive
Tony Rees
1998 – Bath
Ieuan Evans, Nathan Thomas, Richard Webster
2000 – Northampton Saints
Allan Bateman, Gareth Newman
2004 – London Wasps
Rob Howley
2005 – Toulouse
Gareth Thomas
2013 – Toulon
Gethin Jenkins
2015 – Toulon
Leigh Halfpenny
2019 – Saracens
Nick Tompkins, Liam Williams
2020 – Exeter Chiefs
Tomas Francis

ECR Challenge Cup

2001 – Harlequins
Matthew Powell
2003 – London Wasps
Rob Howley
2004  – Harlequins
Ceri Jones
2006 – Gloucester
Mefin Davies, Gary Powell
2008 – Bath
Tom Cheeseman
2010 – Cardiff Blues
Darren Allinson, Scott Andrews, Chris Czekaj, Bradley Davies, Dai Flanagan, Leigh Halfpenny, Dafydd Hewitt, Gethin Jenkins, Deiniol Jones, Richie Rees, Jamie Roberts, Ceri Sweeney, T Rhys Thomas,
Sam Warburton, Gareth Williams, Martyn Williams, John Yapp.
2011 – Harlequins
Ceri Jones, Ollie Kohn
2015 – Gloucester
Richard Hibbard, James Hook, Ross Moriarty
2018 – Cardiff Blues
Gaeth Anscombe, Kristian Dacey, Seb Davies, Jarrod Evans, Rhys Gill, Ellis Jenkins, Owen Lane, Matthew Morgan, Kirby Myhill, Josh Navidi, Garyn Smith, Brad Thyer, Josh Turnbull, Damian Welch, Lloyd Williams, Tomos Williams
2020 – Bristol Bears
Callum Sheedy, Dan Thomas

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