Maxime Raulin - updated on May 2, 2024 at 9:34 pm

A month after his return to competitive action, Romain Ntamack will be back in the starting line-up for the Champions Cup semi-final against Harlequins (Sunday, 4pm).

On Wednesday, Romain Ntamack celebrated his 25th birthday. The day before, one month to the day after his return to competition following his serious left knee injury, which deprived him of the World Cup in France, the Stade Toulousain fly-half spoke at length. The semi-final against Harlequins and his opposite number Marcus Smith, his return to the limelight, the keys to his rehabilitation, his future fatherhood, the French team and the Olympic flame, the French international (37 caps) left no stone unturned.

"Is this European Cup final a bit like your World Cup?
No. My World Cup was my rehabilitation. Basically, this European Cup Final wasn't my objective. I simply wanted to get some playing time. I wanted to get back into the swing of things by playing bits and pieces. Then Tom's injury (Thomas Ramos) accelerated my return to the starting line-up. My mentality has changed a bit. I want to play. It's also linked to my performances, which have been up to scratch, and the positive signals I've been sending out in training. If I'd played average games, things would have been different.

What do you think of this Harlequins team, led by a certain Marcus Smith?
They're a very fine team, with an exciting game, but above all they're very dangerous. The group match (win 17-49) will have nothing to do with this semi-final. Marcus Smith is the Quins' symbol and playmaker. He's a hell of a player! We're the same age and have followed the same career path, playing against each other regularly. So he kept in touch with me during my re-education. I've also sent him messages of encouragement before certain matches. It's a very respectful relationship.

How do you explain Toulouse's failure to reach the Champions Cup semi-finals, with only one qualification (against Bordeaux in 2021) and four eliminations (against Leinster in 2019 and 2022, 2023 and Exeter in 2020)?
Not hosting is a big handicap. And a semi-final is a very special match. You're more tense because the final is just around the corner. I'd say we're freer in the final. After that, there's nothing left. In the semi-finals, there's that feeling of knowing that if you're eliminated, your season's over. We're hoping to beat the odds.