Lund plotting to spring a Biarritz surprise
BIARRITZ ARE not, as things currently stand, among the best half-dozen teams in France; they cannot call on the services of their match-winning back Damien Traille, who fractured his forearm a few weeks ago; and the rugby they play is, more often than not, so lacking in colour and grandeur that it is hard to believe the great Serge Blanco spent a sporting lifetime at the club.
They are not, therefore, the most likely candidates to upset the applecart by beating Toulouse in this afternoon's Heineken Cup final.
But according to Magnus Lund, the Norwegian who won a fistful of caps for England under Andy Robinson and Brian Ashton, a Basque victory is far from an impossibility.
"A lot of people have been doubting us," the flanker said yesterday after being named alongside the extravagantly named Wenceslas Lauret and the extravagantly gifted Imanol Harinordoquy in a distinctly useful back-row combination. "It was a case of 'Should we really be in the quarter-finals?' Our victories over Ospreys and Munster proved a few people wrong, but if they want to keep writing us off anyway, we're happy just to go out there and do the work."
Lund is playing some decent stuff these days and if Lauret and Harinordoquy are equally charged, it is possible to see the outsiders asking Toulouse an awkward question or two, especially as Dimitri Yachvili, their scrum-half, has ended a lengthy spell in the doldrums.
If Biarritz are serious about keeping Clement Poitrenaud, Vincent Clerc, Maxime Medard, Florian Fritz and Yannick Jauzion under lock and key, they will all have to tackle like Lund... and then tackle some more.
But as Leinster discovered in the semi-final, Toulouse can win even the most intensely competitive of games in 10 minutes flat. A fourth title for the men in red and black will reinforce their status as the outstanding campaigners in European rugby. It will also confirm, once and for all, that Guy Noves is one of the world's great coaches.
BIARRITZ v TOULOUSE, Live Sky Sports 2 (KO 5.0)