La Rochelle's Dillyn Leyds on repeating last year's success and the Ronan O'Gara factor

Saturday's meeting with Leinster in Dublin will be a third consecutive final for Ronan O'Gara and La Rochelle

Dillyn Leyds will be looking to replicate last year's heroics in the Heineken Champions Cup as La Rochelle face off against Leinster in a repeat of the 2022 final.

The Springbok was the standout player in an outstanding La Rochelle team and reflects on the occasion fondly.

He said: "I played with a bit more initiative and I didn’t go into my shell. Once I managed to get my hands on the ball early and get a few touches, then it gave me a bit of confidence. It was obviously a great day for me personally, but even more so for the team.

"Hopefully come this weekend, the same thing can happen. Even though it’s a final we don’t want to go into our shells and we want to continue the way that we’ve been playing this season."

With Leinster at the peak of their powers - despite losing 16-15 to Munster in a dramatic United Rugby Championship semi-final last weekend - Leyds knows that he is facing a seriously strong team on Saturday and believes they will be spurred on by their recent loss.

"I think it’s going to be just like it was last season, right down to the wire. Obviously the challenge ahead of us is a very good Leinster team in Dublin which makes the challenge that much more exciting.

"When you get beaten at home, especially in a knockout game, you take a bit of a hit and you want to come back and fire shots early. You want to show that it was just an off day for you as a team and we’ve had similar situations ourselves this season where we’ve lost and then the week after is all about showing a bit of pride.

"They are a quality group of international players and they know how to react after a loss like that. I don’t think that they’ll be thinking too much about what happened (versus Munster) but more about how they can react in this final."

Bringing it back to the Top 14 outfit, Leyds gives head coach Ronan O’Gara credit for his involvement in the La Rochelle set-up. He says that the Irishman has instilled a relentless winning culture within the group.

He said: “Everyone in the rugby world knows that ROG is the kind of guy that always wants to win. Every little thing, every small detail. There’s nothing that isn’t important to him and I think that is what he’s brought to this club.

"For everyone in the team, all we want to do is win and we want to have that feeling every single time. Whether it’s a little battle in training, getting to the kick-chase first or something like that. That’s the kind of mindset that he has brought here.

"Yes we can have fun off the field but when it’s time to do your job, do it to the best of your ability. With the direction that the club is going in, you can see the kind of players that we’re attracting.

"He’s obviously done a hell of a lot for the club and everyone involved really enjoys working with him."

This La Rochelle side is stacked with talent, Leyds included, but he highlighted the work of Jonathan Danty inside him at 12 and loves playing with the French international.

He said: Both him and UJ (Seuteni) have come into form at the right time of the season. He’s (Danty) probably one of the best 12's in the world at the moment so it’s really good to play alongside him. Sometimes it’s a bit frustrating when I’m shouting for the ball but Jo just runs over four or five guys instead!”

This weekend is set to be a titanic clash between two of the premier club teams in world rugby. Leinster will be wanting revenge for last year’s defeat, whilst La Rochelle are aiming to make it two Heineken Champions Cup trophies in consecutive years.


European Rugby Champions Cup Points Table