Greig Laidlaw takes on Richie Gray in French Top 14 final
A Scottish winner is guaranteed in the final of the Top 14 at the Stade de France tonight, when Toulouse, featuring Richie Gray, go head-to-head with a Clermont Auvergne outfit that includes Greig ?Laidlaw.
Scotland second-row Gray, pictured, starts on the bench, while Laidlaw is listed in an unchanged Clermont starting line up
Toulouse, the dominant force in French rugby for many years, are favourites to land a 20th title, although this will be their first appearance in the final since 2012.
Victory for Clermont will give them the Bouclier de Brennus shield for only the third time, the most recent success having come two years ago. Laidlaw has shared the scrum-half berth with Morgan Parra over the course of the season. And the Scot has shown his big match mentality since replacing injured French international Parra in the European Challenge Cup final in Newcastle last month.
Former Scotland captain Laidlaw steered Clermont to victory at St James Park then, with the Frenchman still not fit, was the star of last Sunday’s semi-final win over Lyon when he kicked six out of six. That haul took his tally to 75 from 86 attempts for the season, a strike rate of 87.2 per cent that makes him the second most accurate kicker in the league.
It will be a second appearance in the final for Gray, who featured in the Castres side beaten by a Johnny Wilkinson inspired Toulon in 2014. The lock has worked his way back to fitness after a lengthy injury absence, and tonight will see him make his 11th appearance since returning.
The sides occupied the leading two spots in the Top 14 table after the regular season, with Toulouse ending the campaign 15 points clear of Clermont. The matches between the pair produced a 20-20 draw and a 47-44 win for Toulouse.