Toulouse v Biarritz, Heineken Cup Final, May 22
Traille plays down Biarritz's euro chances
May 12, 2010
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Talismanic Biarritz centre Damien Traille has played down his side's chances of beating Toulouse in this season's Heineken Cup Final - insisting that their French rivals are clear favourites to clinch the biggest club prize in European rugby.
Toulouse will be contesting a record sixth Heineken Cup Final when the two sides meet at the Stade de France in paris on May 22 but Biarritz are in only their second showpiece match and memories of their 23-19 defeat against Munster at the Millennium Stadium four years ago still haunt the club.
"We want to go one better than the final in 2006," said Traille, battling to recover from the fractured forearm that ruled him out of Biarritz's hard-fought semi-final victory over Munster. "That defeat hurt us badly then and still does now because when you reach a final and you trip up on the very last step it is deeply frustrating. Since then our group has grown in maturity, we have become aware of a lot more things and in the end it is the most realistic and focused team who gets the win.
"This a totally different Heineken Cup final from 2006 because it is against Toulouse, the triple Heineken Cup champions, who know how to handle such big occasions. They have a lot more experience than we do but we will play with our own values and qualities to do the best we can in the final. In such high level games, the difference between winning and losing lies in the details. You have to be accurate and sharp and discipline is the key.
"We make a point of trying to keep our penalties to a minimum so as not to allow our opponents easy points since most big teams now have a good kicker who can keep the scoreboard ticking over and often games are won by just three points or so - a late penalty or a drop goal and you are either in or out."
The final is back in France for the first time since 2001 and it will be the third time the tournament climax is an all-French affair following the clashes between Toulouse and Perpignan in Dublin in 2003 and Toulouse and Stade Français Paris in Edinburgh in 2005.
"This final is somewhat peculiar in that it is in France and between two French teams, so we can't help but think it has a bit of a domestic league final taste to it," said Traille. "But the one thing that is certain is that we have one title in mind, and only one, and it is the Heineken Cup. Our objectives for the season were to maintain a spot in the Heineken Cup, reach the Top 14 semi-finals and the Heineken Cup semi-finals so we can say we have got nothing to lose, this is our only chance.
"However, we will have to wait and see whether or not the fact that we have had more time to prepare and recover than Toulouse for this final will favour us. They have kept sharp by continuing to compete in the Top 14 this weekend but it could also have an impact on their form. We have put in place very intense training sessions with contact and opposition to maintain some level of challenge and focus and it is down to the players after that to remain competitive in their minds.
"Our coaches Jack Isaac and Jean-Michel Gonzalez know the club really well as they are former players and that is something special. Although they might be new as coaches compared to more experienced rugby coaching staff in other big clubs, they bring their own personalities and approach, and pay extreme attention to each player to find a specific way for them to progress. For our parts we players try to contribute to their work so we aim to be as competitive as possible."
And while Traille continues his race against time to make the Paris final, he is full of praise for Toulouse centre Yannick Jauzion. "He is such a crucial element in Toulouse - when he does not play they are a different team altogether," said Traille. "They lean on him a lot as he has so many excellent qualities and Toulouse know just how to use them to their best advantage.
"Right now I cannot really see myself playing. It is hard to admit and although there is some time to go before the final for now I am deeply disappointed. I had to watch the semi-final from the stand and it was extremely frustrating not to be out on the field with the guys.
"Those are tough moments for a player. You play most games, you train hard all year long and then in times of high excitement like that and when you reap the rewards of all this team work, you are side-lined and you can't really take part. Having said that I can still contribute to the team effort by supporting them, giving them the benefit of my experience, make what I brought over from the season count and motivate them. That is equally important."