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Allez Les Bleus as Leinster celebrate Euro triumph

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Leinster stars Jonny Sexton and Isa Nacewa, who are both leaving at the end of the season, lift the Amlin Cup after their win over Stade Francais at the RDS.

Leinster stars Jonny Sexton and Isa Nacewa, who are both leaving at the end of the season, lift the Amlin Cup after their win over Stade Francais at the RDS.

Leinster stars Jonny Sexton and Isa Nacewa, who are both leaving at the end of the season, lift the Amlin Cup after their win over Stade Francais at the RDS.

CHANTS of "Allez Les Bleus" filled the Ballsbridge air, but there was not a smiling French face in sight.

This wasn't a euphoric Gallic crowd spilling from an international match at the Aviva, but the joyous cries of the local Leinster support.

They had just witnessed a calm and clinical performance from a team on its way to a 34-13 win over Stade Francais – with departing favourite Jonny Sexton pulling the strings.

Bursts of applause and cheers regularly rang out over D4 as Leinster scored four tries on their way to securing a fourth European title in five years.

It may have been the second-tier Amlin competition and not the Heineken Cup this time, but on a Friday night on home turf, nothing was going to dampen spirits.

Of course, the local fans would have preferred to be supporting their team in Lansdowne Road in the Heineken Cup decider today. Their cheers last night would easily have carried the short distance from the RDS to the great empty Aviva Stadium.

But they were going to make the most of their evening in the first of the summer sun. Among them were Bank of Ireland chief Richie Boucher – he of the Herculean pay packet that would make even a French rugby player weep – and Leo Cullen's twin cousins from Kerry, Rosalyn and Louise O'Connor, celebrating their 25th birthday.

"I texted Leo earlier to wish him luck," said Rosalyn. "He said to enjoy the game and hopefully we'd have something to celebrate tonight." They did.

The twins are Leinster by association rather than birth, hailing from Paidi O Se country in Ventry, Co Kerry.

"We have Leinster flags out the front," said Rosalyn. They live in Dublin now anyway and weren't overly bothered that Leinster were the curtain-raisers for the weekend's rugby.

"We've been there before and supported Leo," Rosalyn said of the Heineken Cup final. "And there's always next weekend," she added of the upcoming RaboDirect Pro12 final between Leinster and Ulster.

A few French supporters tried their luck for tickets around the RDS for the Leinster game, including Stade Rochelais fans Jacky and Michelle Racuet who travelled over for the weekend's rugby, but left Ballsbridge ticketless.

"Tickets? Oui, but where?" asked Jacky minutes before the match started. "Tres difficult."

It was a tres difficult evening for the Stade Francais players who ended up on the wrong end of a hammering.

But there will be one set of French supporters celebrating tonight, at least, as all eyes turn to the Heineken Cup final to decide the club champions of Europe.

Toulon and Clermont Auvergne may feel that Dublin is a long way to go to play a near neighbour. But French rugby fans are making the most of their time in Ireland. Leinster fans were outnumbered yesterday as Dublin's pubs were swelled by hundreds of Clermont, Toulon and Stade Francais supporters.

PROUD

But in today's battle of the French, Clermont are already in the driving seat. Some 10,000 Clermont fans have flocked to Dublin – dwarfing the Toulon contingent, which is believed to number around 2,000.

"This year is France's year," said confident Clermont man Stephan Fanou as he jetted into Dublin Airport with a group of five friends. "Every year we have Irish teams going to the final. This year we are very proud to have two French teams."

Like many Clermont supporters, he decided to forgo national pride and said he would be supporting Leinster over Paris-side Stade Francais last night.

"We love Irish people coming to our city every year for rugby matches. We know several people from Leinster so we will be supporting them," he explained.

Outside one Temple Bar pub, Christine Escure from Clermont was part of a 25-strong group which was gearing up for the weekend's rugby.

"We start tonight. We will be going for Leinster because we know them and we have beaten them," she said.

And the main event?

"Of course we are going to win. It may be close, but I think Clermont should win if we look at the season we have had."

Irish Independent