Toulon tackle Premiership leaders Saracens
October 14, 2009
Toulon fly-half Jonny Wilkinson is set for his euro bow against Premiership leaders Sarries © Getty Images
Big-spending Top 14 side Toulon play host to Premiership leaders Saracens in the pick of the second round of action in this season's European Challenge Cup.
The Stade Felix Mayol clash is set to be Toulon fly-half Jonny Wilkinson's first apperance on the European stage this season and the match will also see his England international colleague Steve Borthwick make his tournament bow for Saracens having recovered from the eye injury he suffered at the boot of Gloucester hooker Olivier Azam last month.
Saracens, unbeaten in their five Premiership encounters this season, opened their Challenge Cup account with a 36-12 victory over Italian side Rovigo at Vicarage Road while their Pool 3 rivals were arguably more impressive with a much-changed side notching a 33-17 away win at Castres Olympique.
Toulon's international hooker Sebastien Bruno, who like Wilkinson switched to the Mediterranean from the Premiership in the summer, sat out the opener but is also in contention to this week and revealed that the squad is drawing on the knowledge of those players familiar with English rugby's top flight.
"We have the opportunity to count on players who know about English rugby, like Jonny, Juan Fernandez Lobbe, Tonga Leaaetoa and myself, so we hope this will prove useful against what we know will be really tough opponents," he said. "At Toulon this year we want to be competitive on both fronts, domestic and Europe, and while the club was struggling last year after only just being promoted from ProD2, there is a wealth of players to choose from to make us real contenders.
"However, our pool is a difficult one and it was an important match to win at Castres - it was encouraging for what now lies ahead of us. It was a good start and a relief for us to have won this opening game since we lost against Castres the previous week in the Top 14."
Meanwhile, Borthwick is raring to go after his injury scare and is looking forward to the challenge of Toulon who also boast former Sarries favourite Kris Chesney in their ranks.
"I'm desperate to play rugby so I'm really looking forward to getting back this week," he said this week. "I was alarmed by it [the injury]. It's not something that has ever happened to me before, but the care I was given was sensational.
"I have some friends playing down in France, like Kris Chesney, and from listening to them and reading the reports, Jonny is supposed to be in fantastic form and fantastic shape. As an England player and an England supporter, I'm very happy to hear that."
Toulon: L Rooney, R Lamont, G Lovobalavu, T May, C Loamanu, J Wilkinson, P Mignoni, L Emmanuelli, P Fitzgerald, T Leaaetoa, E Lozada, K Chesney, J van Niekerk [capt], J Fernandez Lobbe, F Auelua
Replacements: J Djoudi, B Basteres, D Kubriashvili, O Missoup, S Fauque, M Kefu, M Henjak, D Senekal
Saracens: M Horak, R Haughton, R Penney, B Barritt, C Wyles, D Hougaard, J Marshall, M Aguero, E Reynecke, R Skuse, S Borthwick [capt], T Ryder, W van Heerden, A Saull, M Owen
Replacements: F Ongaro, R Gill, C Nieto, H Vyvyan, E Joubert, N de Kock, G Jackson, A Goode
The rolling maul is becoming an increasingly potent attacking weapon. Conor O'Shea looks at the difficulties of stopping it
The news of James Horwill, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Dan Carter's respective transfers will open the floodgates, writes Tom Hamilton
Kiwi coaches can be found far and wide across the globe, and Murray Mexted believes the All Blacks benefit every bit as much as their rivals
Clermont, Toulon, player burnout, Sam Burgess and a farewell to Adams Park - Monday Maul looks back at the weekend's action