Bernard Jackman identifies the Leinster player with the most at stake in the Champions Cup final

Leinster’s Champions Cup final clash against Toulouse is fast approaching and the pressure is mounting with halfback Ross Byrne set to play a pivotal role.

The 29-year-old has put injuries behind him as he looks to emulate Johnny Sexton in leading Leinster to glory on the European stage.

Leinster have failed at the last hurdle against La Rochelle in the last two seasons and Byrne featured in both games, replacing Sexton in a late but difficult cameo at Marseille in 2022.

He would play the full 80 minutes 12 months later with Sexton sidelined and was heavily criticized for not attempting a drop-goal before Michael Ala’alatoa’s decisive infringement.

Later images would show that Byrne had made a gesture to ask for the ball but did not receive it from his teammates.

Byrne was instrumental in Leinster gaining revenge on Ronan O’Gara’s side in this season’s quarter-finals with a Man of the Match performance, but he still has unfinished business in a European final.

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April 13, 2024; Leinster’s Ross Byrne, centre, and Leinster’s head medical professor John Ryan after their side’s victory in the Investec Champions Cup quarter-final match between Leinster and La Rochelle at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin . Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

He will face arguably the best half-back pairing in European rugby in Romain Ntamack and Antoine Dupont, but will take comfort in the fact that Jamison Gibson-Park will play alongside him.

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Gibson-Park has been one of the fittest players on the planet all season and will be key to his team’s attacking pace.

Jackman says Champions Cup final ‘huge’ for Ross Byrne

Toulouse have creativity in abundance from their midfield and will be bolstered by players like Thomas Ramos during the game.

Leinster know what Gibson-Park will bring, but Byrne must seize the opportunity to claim redemption against quality opposition, according to Bernard Jackman.

Speaking on RTE against the head On Monday night, Jackman highlighted the enormity of the encounter for Byrne in particular.

“Gibson-Park is obviously playing exceptional rugby and Ross Byrne had a great quarter-final,” Jackman said.

“This is a huge game for Ross Byrne. He was on the pitch at the end in Marseille; he started and finished the game last year.

“This could be their day of redemption. It will have to be because in Ntamack and Ramos they have two.”

Donal Lenihan added that Byrne needs to step up and take some of the creative burden off Gibson-Park if Leinster are to land an elusive fifth star.

“In the Top 14 final, Ntamack didn’t really play a good game, but in the end he has that individual style and pace (to win the match),” he said.

“At times Leinster have become too reliant on Gibson-Park.

“Therefore, Ross Byrne has to understand that at certain points in the game he needs to take the pressure off Gibson-Park and take control of the game.

“It’s a great match for him.”

Victory for Toulouse will take them to six Champions Cups and would leave them two ahead of Leinster in the all-time standings.

Both sides are so evenly matched that it is sure to be an exciting encounter regardless of the outcome.

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