Game breakers: Five battles that will decide the 'Dream' Top 14 Final

Game breakers: Five battles that will decide the 'Dream' Top 14 Final

Eleven years on and Toulouse and Clermont will clash in the TOP14 Final for the first time since 2008. 

The re-run of the 2008 final promises to be an enthralling encounter with Clermont racking up more scoreboard points than any other side while Toulouse recorded the highest ever tally of league points to finish top of the regular-season table.

Both sides have shown the ability to be absolutely ruthless while still showing some frailties and imploding at any given time. The two giants have faced off twice this year with Toulouse winning their home game against Clermont 47-44 while the two sides drew 20 apiece with an aggregate scoreline of 67-64.

There is not much splitting the two sides so we have picked out the battles that could decide the encounter.

The front rowers

The Toulouse front rower will certainly have their work cut out for them in the final as they front up against arguably the strongest front row in the Top 14.

Etienne Falgoux, Benjamin Kayser and Rabah Slimani have been superb all season, however, Toulouse has been far from sub-par.

Cyril Baille, Peato Mauvaka and Charlie Faumuina are all test quality, with Mauvaka certainly making a strong case for a test call.

Early dominance could prove pivotal handing either side the confidence and potentially attacking lineouts inside the oppositions' half.

Rynhardt Elstadt v Arthur Iturria 

Two of the form blindside flankers face off in the final and their ability to get over the gain-line and hit ball carries backwards will play a major role in the outcome of the game.

Elstadt is on the cusp of Springbok call-up if reports are to be believed, and a big performance in a big game could catapult him into the Bok set up for the upcoming Rugby Championships.

Both players are also excellent exponents at the lineout and a few steals would certainly play a vital role.

Antoine Dupont - Thomas Ramos v Greig Laidlaw - Camille Lopez

It could be argued that both sides start the game without their ideal halfback pairings for the game with Zack Holmes missing from the match 23 for Toulouse while Clermont are without Morgan Parra.

Despite the absentees, both sides have incredibly talented halfback pairings on opposite sides of their careers. Dupont and Ramos are both in their early 20s while both Laidlaw and Lopez are in their 30s.

The Clermont pair have proved their ability to show up when it matters most while Dupont and Ramos will face what is arguably the biggest test of their careers to-date.

Although we can expect a high scoring game, not often the case in finals, the accuracy from the tee from Ramos and Laidlaw could be the deciding factor.

In the first encounter between the two sides, Ramos, Laidlaw and Parra were all flawless from the tee in the stalemate while Laidlaw missed a penalty that could have tied the game up in the second encounter that Toulouse won.

Pita Ahki - Sofiane Guitoune v Wesley Fofana - George Moala

The final provides a massive opportunity for Sofiane Guitoune to make one final claim for a test call up.

Both sides have stellar midfield combinations that could rip through the defence and their success to do so regularly could be a major deciding factor.

Ahki and Guitoune have combined brilliantly throughout the season while we don't really have to dive too deep into Wesley Fofana's credentials.

Finally, George Moala struggled somewhat at the start of his time in France but has found his feet and has produced performances that earned him a place in the All Blacks squad.

The impact off the bench

Both sides have depth in their squads highlighted by the quality of their benches, despite injuries. The timing of the inclusions of Maks van Dyk, Romian Ntamack, Sebastien Bezy and Richie Gray could turn the game in Toulouse and ditto for Clermont with the likes of Peceli Yato, Judicael Cancoriet, Apisai Naqalevu and Tim Nanai-Williams.

Toulouse could shake up their backline with Romain Ntamack and Sebastien Bezy off the bench if Ramos or Dupont are struggling to take hold of the game in their starting roles. While Naqalevu and Yato will add a punch to the Clermont side wherever they are introduced. 

The battle between van Dyk and Loni Uhila in the scrums in the latter stages of the game could hand either side a winning penalty. 

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