Challenge Cup final pits debutants La Rochelle against scarred Clermont

2019-05-09 18:28
Rugby ball (File)

Newcastle - Up against Clermont's scarred veterans in the European Challenge Cup decider, La Rochelle will start their debut final shorn of one their pillars of experience, captain Victor Vito.

The 32-year-old back-row forward is out of Friday's final in Newcastle with a shoulder injury with his place taken by French international Gregory Alldritt. 

Physically Alldritt can fill the hole left by Vito. He is only one centimetre shorter, at 1.91 metres, and at 115 kilogrammes, is three kilogrammes heavier. But he is 10 years younger, and despite five French caps, far less experienced. 

While Vito has collected two World Cup winner's medals with New Zealand, the youthful Alldritt, like his club, has never appeared in a major final.

La Rochelle's players have spent the run up to the final dealing with the issue of experience. 

"It doesn't necessarily mean anything," said centre Geoffrey Doumayrou, who scored a try for Stade Francais when they won the final in 2017.

Coach Jono Gibbes saw it as a chance for his players.

"This is an opportunity for leaders to take responsibility. Some do it, others less so," he said.

New-Zealand born France prop Uini Atonio echoed the sentiment.

"We have a few guys who have been world champions, Top 14 champions and so on," he said. "We have a good mix between us. And everyone wants to win this cup." 

Yet experience can be two-edged. 

Read more on:    clermont  |  rugby


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