Selection debate between Ramos and Kinghorn proves Toulouse’s abundance of backline riches

Scotland international appears to have recovered from a broken nose meaning he is the favourite to once again pip his French counterpart

Blair Kinghorn’s broken nose, sustained in Toulouse’s semi-final win over Harlequins, didn’t require surgery and he is therefore available for Saturday’s Champions Cup final against Leinster at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Toulouse head coach Ugo Mola will reveal at lunchtime on Friday whether he has gone with the in-form Scotland international at fullback or plumped for the lavishly gifted Thomas Ramos. There’s no real downside irrespective of his decision.

Any time up to about six months ago it would have been unthinkable that Ramos would start three knockout matches in Europe, the round of 16, quarter-final and semi-final on the bench, with the possibility of a fourth in the offing. Injuries scuppered his availability during and post Six Nations, but Kinghorn has grasped the opportunity impressively.

Ramos is a feisty competitor, an entertainer with a conjuror’s flair for big moments in matches, while off the pitch he offers a brand of forthright honesty. Speaking to Midi Olympique’s Jeremy Fadat, the 28-year-old gave an insight into how the Toulouse players are feeling ahead of Saturday’s final in London.


“Calm and serenity, I would say. We were obviously happy but, from what I perceive, this group [of players] knows where it wants to go and what the team is capable of. Our confidence is high at the moment, and we are ready to challenge Leinster.”

The suggestion that the final was written in the stars, the first between two Europe’s two most successful teams in the tournament, has a literal connotation with the five that adorn the Toulouse jersey, as against the four on Leinster’s.

Ramos said: “Seeing the final phase table, everyone was impatiently awaiting the duel between Leinster and La Rochelle in the quarter-final. And, before the semi-final, many people predicted the preferred Toulouse-Leinster final. The results proved them right. For our part, the objective was to be in the final, then to win it. It doesn’t matter who the opponent is.

“These are the stars! That’s why we put them on the jersey. And you know that our team loves taking on challenges and making history. Leinster have four at the moment, so we don’t want to let it come back on us. We want to be worthy of the history of Stade Toulouse.”

Leinster have won the last three semi-finals between the teams in 2019, 2022 and 2023. Ramos spoke about one improvement from those games that is not negotiable if Toulouse are to end the sequence of defeats and claim victory in north London. “Every time we lost, it was at the Aviva or at the RDS Stadium. And these defeats taught us one thing: our indiscipline was costly.

“Last year, we were in the match and, without these two occasions we were down a man after the yellow cards, we would have been in it to fight until the end. This is true for us, but it is true with all Leinster’s opponents.

“I am convinced that our rugby, if we manage to put it in place, can hurt them. In fact, [Leinster are] a team that [plays] at 100 per cent all the time, which gives you the impression of never letting up. It’s up to us to do the same.

“The basic objective is to be champions, not to beat Leinster. There, it turns out that you will have to beat him to be the champion. It’s obviously a huge challenge but I can’t imagine a single player focused on the fact that we haven’t been able to dominate this team in recent years.

“Past disappointments are at the forefront. But the context will be completely different, on neutral ground, with a mixed audience. I dare to think that we will approach the event differently too. Our group has often responded in the final [to win]. We know how to play these matches and the story is not the same as in an away semi-final.”

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer