Thursday 29 September 2016

Toulon star admits he was close to joining Leinster

Published 29/04/2015 | 02:30

Toulon's Drew Mitchell was close to joining Leinster before he opted for the reigning European champions
Toulon's Drew Mitchell was close to joining Leinster before he opted for the reigning European champions

Drew Mitchell will start on the wing in this weekend's Champions Cup final instead of the injured Delon Armitage but the Australian could easily have been watching events unfold from an armchair in Ranelagh.

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Three years ago, as the former Waratahs man contemplated a switch to Europe, he was feted by Leinster officials in Wales and he liked what he saw in the then reigning European champions.

Sadly for Leinster fans, Mitchell also liked the look of the set-up by the Côte d'Azur and plumped for Toulon, who are going for the European three-in-a-row against Clermont.

"I was pretty sure it was time for me to move on from Australian rugby and move abroad," he said yesterday.

"I wasn't the type of player who threw the net far and wide, I pretty quickly narrowed my focus down to just one or two clubs and it basically came down to Leinster and Toulon.

"Both of them had excellent squads, superb facilities and strong histories.

"So there were many factors that came into it for me when I talked to the two clubs. The comfort of having my best mate Matt Giteau here was important.

"Also the climate was a factor. I'm a pretty well-known whinger when it's cold so I'm not sure if I would have been too good in the team environment when it came to winter time!

"All joking aside though, I just felt Toulon were a better fit for me. I was on my own without a partner and kids and it was a help that Matt had his wife and kids too, so that helped me settle in."

Leinster had the opportunity to spoil Mitchell's European dream in their epic semi-final clash in Marseille a fortnight ago and the 31-year-old believes that game will benefit his side as they prepare for the familiar challenge of Clermont.

"It doesn't get tighter than it did against Leinster. That game will give us confidence," he said.

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