Scotland scrum-half Greig Laidlaw starts on the bench tonight as he bids for a second Challenge Cup winner’s medal and a third title in Europe’s second-tier competition for his French club Clermont Auvergne against La Rochelle.
Laidlaw won with Gloucester in 2015, when they beat his former club Edinburgh at Twickenham Stoop. He was then on the losing side when the Cherry and Whites lost the 2017 final to Stade Francais at BT Murrayfield.
Clermont Auvergne won the tournament in 1999 when they were called Montferrand and then again in their new guise under former Scotland boss Vern Cotter in 2007.
It will be the first all-French European Challenge Cup final for seven years at St James’ Park in Newcastle, launching a European finals weekend that continues tomorrow when Saracens and Leinster contest the Champions Cup.
Clermont were in imperious form during the pool stage, equalling Ospreys’ 2016-17 achievement by winning all six games with bonus points.
They followed that up by knocking out quarter-final opponents Northampton 61-38, then reached the final thanks to a 31-27 victory over Harlequins.
La Rochelle’s route to Newcastle has not been as straightforward, losing to Bristol in their group before meeting – and beating – them in the last eight, and then edging past Sale Sharks. It is the first all-French affair since 2012 when Biarritz defeated Toulon.