Former Premiership stars set for Top 14 bow
July 9, 2009
Jonny Wilkinson could be playing against James Haskell on the opening day of the Top 14 season © Getty Images
England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson is set to lock horns with his international team mate James Haskell on the opening day of the Top 14 season.
France's top flight will swing back into action on the weekend of August 14/15 with a host of former Guinness Premiership stars set to be involved having made the switch across the Channel.
Amongst them are former Newcastle Falcons fly-half Wilkinson, a high profile signing for Toulon, and Haskell who joined the Paris-based Stade Francais from London Wasps this summer. The two teams will go head-to-head at Toulon's Stade Mayol in arguably the pick of the opening round fixtures.
Wilkinson, who was named in the England Elite Squad earlier this week, has battled back to fitness following his latest injury set back and is set to be handed the No.10 shirt while Haskell could be joined by fellow Premiership convert Julien Dupuy who joined the club from Leicester Tigers last month.
Brive, sporting their new English signings Riki Flutey and Jamie Noon, coupled with Andy Goode's presence at fly-half will be hoping to see off the challenge of a visiting Montpellier team while defending champions, Perpignan, welcome Bayonne to the Stade Aimé Giral.
Last season's fast finishers Biarritz are at home to Castres where the England international Iain Balshaw is in line to gets his first taste of French rugby. Clermont Auvergne, beaten finalists last season, travel to Bourgoin while perennial champion contenders Toulouse travel to Montauban.
The first weekend's fixtures are rounded out by two newly promoted teams - Albi and Racing Metro. Racing find themselves in a similar position to Toulon of last season - backed by the wealth of Jackie Lorenzetti and with a raft of big-name signings including Sebastien Chabal and Lionel Nallet they will be expected to finish high up the log this season.
Top 14 Round 1 Fixtures: 14/15 August
Biarritz v Castres
"Gentlemen, if you want to see the World Cup going south yet again, you are going the right way about it," John Taylor looks at the state of European rugby
The Heineken Cup proved once again just why it is the best domestic rugby competition in the world at the weekend and Monday Maul picks out some of the key talking points
The latest Week in Pictures brings you a selection of the best snaps from around the rugby world with scantily clad ladies, O'Driscoll and snow all featuring
"If I miss the first kick of the match, it shouldn't have any impact on the second. They are different entities." Tom Hamilton talks to Northampton Saints' Stephen Myler