The Heineken Cup Final 2003 . . . . Did you know?
1) Emile Ntamack is the only survivor from the inaugural Heineken Cup final played at Cardiff Arms Park on 6 January, 1996. Toulouse took the title by beating Cardiff 21-18 in extra time.
2) The 1996 final is the only one of the seven finals to date to go into extra time. Toulouse's victory allowed Ntamack to become the first player to captain a team to victory in a European event.
3) Guy Noves has remained head coach at Toulouse throughout the eight year history of the Heineken Cup, making him the longest serving coach in the tournament's history.
4) Toulouse will edge ahead of their semi-final rivals Munster as the team which has played the most games in the Heineken Cup when they meet Perpignan in the final. It will be their 54th game, one more than Munster.
5) Toulouse are also leading the way in the competition with 36 victories in 53 matches to date, compared to Munster's 34 in 53.
6) Finau and Isitoto Maka will become only the third pair of brothers to play in the Heineken Cup final if they both make the Toulouse 22. Jerome and Sebastien Carrat were the first set of brothers to play in the final when were in the Brive team that lost to Bath in Bordeaux in 1998. Martin and Will Johnson figured in Leicester Tigers' winning side against Stade Francais in 2001.
7) The game between Perpignan and Toulouse will be the first Heineken Cup final played between two teams from the same country. In only three of the eight semi-final line-ups from 1996-2003 has it been impossible to get two teams from the same country into the final - 2000, 2001 and 2002.
8) Perpignan outside half Manny Edmonds has a 100% record at Lansdowne Road. As well as helping his side to beat Leinster Lions in Dublin in the semi-finals, he was also a winner at the ground for the Australian Schools against an Irish Schools side containing his current team mate Phil Murphy.
9) Perpignan's French international hooker Marc Dal Maso will be figuring in his third European final - and hoping for his first winner's medal. He was in the Agen side that lost to Colomiers in the 1998 European Shield final in Toulouse and then in the Colomiers side a year later that lost to Ulster in the European Rugby Cup final at Lansdowne Road.
10) When Ulster were crowned European champions at Lansdowne Road in 1999 they did so having lost two of their Pool matches. Perpignan will become only the second side to win the title by losing two games on the way to the final if they beat Toulouse.
The Experts opinion on the match outcome...
CONOR O'SHEA (London Irish) "I think Toulouse will win. We played them twice this year, and I think they have more threats. The two packs are quite evenly matched, but I just think that Toulouse are a team full of big-match players. And this is the Heineken Cup final, which has a tradition in that club. "I think on the day it will be quite a comfortable win. They just have too many game breakers.
"You look at the likes of Clerc, Garbajosa, Michalak, Ntamack, Poitrenaud, they have a team of stars. Upfront they have Callazo, who is an outstanding prop, then there is Bru at hooker, Pelous the skipper in the second row - there is class the whole way through the team. "Perpignan have proven their worth to get to the final. They had outstanding results at home against Gloucester and Munster in the Pool stages, although I think Leinster really under-performed in the semi-final. "
JO MASO (France Team Manager and former Perpignan player) "I am split - I am from Perpignan but Toulouse are our best team at the moment. "The head goes with Toulouse, the heart with Perpignan. However, it is a one-off occasion and Perpignan can do it - that is what makes it a fascinating match. "And Perpignan will not go to Dublin to make up the numbers, they have a great team spirit and they will give it everything."
DEAN RICHARDS (Leicester Tigers) "My tip would be Toulouse. I think they have more of a balanced side than Perpignan, and their backs can be deadly as well. "If things start to go their way, then they have the ability to carve up the Perpignan side. The half-backs for Toulouse are very strong and dangerous - mind you, Manny Edmonds hasn't done too badly this year.
"I think the confrontations up front will be pretty even. A lot will depend on how the referee handles the game. I think Perpignan got away with a lot in the semi-final, but saying that, they played to the limits of the referee and I thought they did very well."
PETER THORBURN (Bristol Shoguns) "I think Toulouse will win because they are probably more skilled right through their team. Perpignan played tremendously in their semi-final, but they looked to be doing it on passion. "I don't mean to say they are an unskilled team. They have a very strong forward pack, without a lot of 'name' players. But what they did do they did on passion, and I think they could do that again.
"But I think, just looking at the playing strengths of each side, Toulouse has a higher profile playing side. Whether they can produce that away from home in a game like the Heineken Cup final, only time will tell. "The player who impressed in the semi-final was Elissalde. He just looked something special and different."
. . . . And what the Finalists Say
Fabien Pelous (Toulouse joint captain): "I have split feelings about playing Perpignan in the final. I said before their match that I would prefer to play them in the final and it is brilliant news that the Heineken Cup champion will definitely be a French team but, after watching their semi-final, I am more weary about their game. "They produced a huge game against Leinster - as in their quarter-final against Llanelli - which proves once again the value of the Catalan team.
"It's not an accident that they are in the final - the clubs that have reached the final have proven that they are the best teams in the competition. It's the first time that two teams from the same country have reached the final which says a lot about French rugby. Whatever happens, a French team will be the favourite to win!"
Emile Ntamack (Toulouse joint captain): "We are not disappointed to meet Perpignan in the final. They took to the task very well and that is not an easy job at a full Lansdowne Road. They already proved in the quarter-final that they were capable of winning away and they achieved that again in Dublin.
"To have two French clubs in the Heineken Cup final is an honour for French rugby - we have defied those who thought the English and Irish were the stronger nations. The two rugby regions of Toulouse and Perpignan will really support their teams all the way now."
Olivier Saisset (Perpignan coach): "This is a great result for French rugby. We have shown that we are a very solid group of players at Perpignan. There are no stars in the team but we are a good squad of players that becomes excellent when we gel well together. To play Toulouse in the final will be an extraordinary occasion."
Bernard Goutta (Perpignan captain): "We are delighted because everyone thought we were a small team and no-one gave us a chance of making it to the final, even Leinster who thought they were better than us. "People said we had achieved something at Llanelli but we were lucky there in that they were playing with 14 men for most of the match. Now we have achieved something because no-one believed in us. So much so that I had a job to motivate the players before the match.
"What we have achieved is huge. We were in the Pool of Death with Munster and Gloucester, we have played both our knock-out games away from home and no-one had scored three tries against Leinster - until us! It is amazing."