REACTION: La Rochelle captain Gregory Alldritt admitted he was left frustrated by opposing skipper James Ryan’s attitude during the coin toss ahead of Saturday’s Champions Cup Final.
The French outfit beat Leinster 27-26 in Dublin in a repeat of last season’s decider to become the fifth club to retain the crown in the competition’s 27 years history.
La Rochelle trailed by 16 points at the break but Georges-Henri Colombe’s 78th-minute try claimed the victory over the four-time winners.
However, the battle started ahead of the match when La Rochelle felt “disrespected” by the actions of Ryan.
“He didn’t look in my eyes when we shook hands,” said Alldritt, who was also crowned European Player of the Year.
“He didn’t respect me.”
He added: “It’s something that we mustn’t get used to it. We have a lot of values in this club and respect is part of it.
“At 17-0, we managed to reverse the trend and switch at half-time to 23-14.
“The dynamic was for us. We decided that the lost finals were over and that we want trophies. It’s just incredible. It’s a match that is played with 23 and not with 15.”
The 26-year-old later told RTÉ Sport that it “was no big deal”.
On the coin toss incident, La Rochelle coach Ronan O’Gara added: “Yeah, I got word of it down on the pitch.
“Obviously, I have a close relationship with my captain.
“A bizarre action when they were going for the toss.
“Normally you engage eyes and no eyes were engaged. Greg was disappointed and let down.”
Meanwhile, O’Gara said defending the Champions Cup title was “just the start” for his side.
“I’m really proud of them. They found a solution,” O’Gara told reporters.
“It’s why we’re in rugby. We’re getting into the territory of being a special team but it’s just the start,” he added.
Leinster, playing in their home city in front of a sold-out Lansdowne Road, crossed for three tries, converting just one, within the opening quarter of an hour.
“We were on the ropes big time. We were being steamrolled,” former Ireland flyhalf O’Gara said.
“Within 11 minutes it’s 17-0 so you’re not a long way from getting hosed, which wasn’t the plan coming here.
“The boys really care, they could have jumped ship but they dug in, they showed worldly resolve and are worthy champions,” he added.
Next up for the side from the Atlantic coast is hosting Stade Francais in the Top 14 next Sunday but their place in June’s domestic semifinals is already secured.
La Rochelle have lost in two semifinals and a final in the French league since 2017.
“Out of respect for this competition I don’t want to talk about that,” O’Gara said.
“We haven’t made a schedule, but I think party Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday then a captain’s run.
“We’ll talk about what we want to do this season,” he added.
In less than four months, France will host New Zealand in the opening game of the Rugby World Cup.
Les Bleus, with Alldritt in the back row, are favourites for the Webb Ellis trophy alongside Ireland, who had 18 representatives in Leinster’s Champions Cup final squad.
“It’s a different competition, different preparation,” Alldritt said.
“It’s too early to speak about the World Cup,” the 26-year-old said.
Sources: AFP & RTE