Leo Cullen: Leinster ‘need to see what we’re made of’ after European heartache

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen admitted his players would have to show character to overcome the crushing disappointment of losing a third consecutive Investec Champions Cup final.

Toulouse scaled the summit of European rugby for an unprecedented sixth time after finishing strongly in a 31-22 victory at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium that needed extra time to separate the rivals.

Antoine Dupont was outstanding for the French champions, who had the boot of Thomas Ramos to thank for pushing them clear after the first 80 minutes finished 15-15.

With the United Rugby Championship still in play, Leinster must now recover quickly from another narrow defeat in the final having lost to La Rochelle in 2022 and 2023.

Leinster Rugby v Stade Toulousain – Investec Champions Cup – Final – Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Toulouse players celebrate at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium (Adam Davy/PA)

“Everyone is devastated. We’ve been on the losing side on a few occasions now,” Cullen said.

“We need to see what we’re all made of now, as hard as that will be. We’ll process it and move on to the next challenge against Connacht at the RDS on Friday night. They won’t make life easy for us.

“The lads have been immense in the character they have shown and they probably need to show a bit of character now because you get the sense of what’s coming when you lose another final. We have to be able to deal with that ourselves.

“There’s not a lack of belief that we can do this, it’s just making sure that we stick at it because we will get across the line.”

Leinster replacement Ciaran Frawley kicked the penalty that ensured extra time, but he was also narrowly wide with a late drop-goal attempt that would have snatched victory.

“It comes down to the finest thing. There was a drop goal at the end and if that goes a metre to the right then we’re having a very different conversation here. That’s the nature of sport at the top end,” Cullen said.

“I’m not sure the game got away from us. It was a very tight contest. We had some really positive passages of play.

“Toulouse scrambled well and came up with big moments defensively and that was the difference.

“The lads were immense out there and kept firing shots throughout but didn’t get the rewards for lots of difference reasons. We poured a lot into it.

“We just felt we’re so close to breaking them and most people in the stadium would have that sense.”

Leinster Rugby v Stade Toulousain – Investec Champions Cup – Final – Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Antoine Dupont played a starring role for Toulouse (Adam Davy/PA)

Toulouse captain Antoine Dupont was delighted with the way his team stepped up during the 20 minutes of extra time that eventually swung it for the French champions.

“The feeling is a great joy. There are feelings and emotions that are hard to put into words,” man of the match Dupont said.

“We’ve worked so hard. We know how difficult it is to lift this trophy. It wasn’t a simple game, let’s be honest, but it’s brought us great joy.

“Extra time is crunch time, money time, and you shouldn’t ask questions, just get your head down and do what you need to do. You win the game mentally.”