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Six Nations stars to face off in Champions Cup Final

Six Nations stars to face off in Champions Cup Final
  • Owen Farrell and Johnny Sexton will line up against each other for the first time since England played Ireland in the 2019 Guinness Six Nations
  • James Ryan and Maro Itoje are also set to lock horns in an intriguing match-up

As the countdown to the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup Finals ticks ever closer, fans will be relishing the opportunity to see stars of the 2019 Guinness Six Nations battle it out on the European stage.

Irish side Leinster will battle it out against English giants Saracens for the chance as the former seek their fifth star and the latter aim for their third Champions Cup success in four years.

Meanwhile, an all-French tie between Clermont Auvergne and La Rochelle will display the best of Les Bleus.

With so much international talent on either side, here’s the individual matchups and players that could decide the games.

Sexton and Farrell seek success from the boot

While Owen Farrell was one of the leading fly-halves at the 2019 Guinness Six Nations, he’ll have to line up against World Rugby Player of the Year Johnny Sexton on Saturday.

Farrell notched 59 points – to Sexton’s 23 – over the five games of the Championship as he led all players in points scored.

When Leinster and Saracens matched up last year, both players kicked three penalties apiece as they traded blow-for-blow in the first half.

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Can the experienced Sexton step it up against the in-form Farrell?

Kearney hopes to use international experience to overcome brilliant Goode

Alex Goode may have been left out of Eddie Jones’ 2019 Guinness Six Nations squad – but he’s been a revelation for Saracens this season.

On the five-man shortlist for the ECPR Player of the Year, he’s been a stalwart at full-back for the Premiership side this season.

Director of rugby Mark McCall said: “He continues to knock out big performances, all the time.

“Especially in the big games he has been sensational. He’s been such an important player for Saracens over the last 10 years.”

He’ll be up against Rob Kearney, who proved his worth in this year’s Guinness Six Nations with three clean breaks and a reliable presence at the back.

Forward pack clash in battle of power

England stars George Kruis and Jamie George have been reliable presences in the Saracens’ forward pack this season, but Leinster will provide a different sort of challenge.

Whether it be bursts of power that allow quick offloads or simply disciplined work throughout the 80 minutes, Ireland internationals Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Jack Conan and Tadhg Furlong will be more than a match.

George and Healy both forced a couple of turnovers during the 2019 Guinness Six Nations, while Kruis starred at lock for England with a steadfast lineout.

Itoje and Ryan show mutual respect

Both forwards are known for their athleticism, power and ability to shift the momentum in any game.

And now the Ireland and Leinster youngster has cited Itoje as his inspiration.

“What Maro did was unbelievably impressive, inspirational really,” Ryan said.

“He is a complete second row in many respects in the fact he is so good over the ball as well. He is one of Saracens go-to players; they look to him for generating energy and momentum.”

And while Itoje’s Championship campaign was disrupted through injury, Ryan went on to display his brilliance at a tender age.

The second-row talent made 63 carries – only behind Billy Vunipola – and won 14 lineouts.

And in 11 Guinness PRO14 appearances this season, he’s made 51 tackles, 52 carries and won another 14 lineouts.

French power to face off in tense battle

Both sides are known for their flair, but when Clermont and La Rochelle face off, the forward pack could prove to be the difference maker.

Uini Atonio and Dany Priso were useful off the bench during the 2019 Guinness Six Nations – but they will be up against the brilliant Sebastien Vahaamahina, who made 22 carries during the Championship.

Fellow forward Arthur Iturria, who has impressed in Clermont’s European run, made an impact on the international stage earlier this year with his carrying ability, and will be an integral cog of the pack.

Speed could decide Challenge Cup destination

When Clermont needed to deliver against Harlequins in the Challenge Cup semi-final, they could rely on the flair and pace of Damian Penaud.

The 22-year-old, who dotted down two tries for France in this year’s Guinness Six Nations, notched a crucial try to give his side an unassailable lead before a stunning Quins comeback almost threatened the result.

La Rochelle’s Geoffrey Doumayrou will be tasked with stopping him – the centre put in some nice defensive shifts for his French side during this year’s Championship.

With talent spread all around the pitch, both games will be decided by which XV wants it more – but each individual player knows they could be the one to make the difference between glory and defeat.