Bath told to beware of flying Medard
October 8, 2008
Bath will have their hands full in dealing with Medard, the latest in a long line of exciting Toulouse backs © Getty Images
Bath have been warned by Toulouse skipper Jean Bouilhou to beware the threat of flying full-back Maxime Medard when they travel to Toulouse for their Heineken Cup opener on Sunday.
Medard is the latest back to fall off Toulouse's conveyor belt of talent that has already spawned France internationals Vincent Clerc, Cedric Heymans and Yannick Jauzion. The 21-year-old, recently named the Top 14's best young player from the 2007-08 season, is yet to make an appearance for Les Bleus but is expected to be named in head coach Marc Lievremont's squad for the forthcoming autumn internationals.
And Bouilhou admits the club has high hopes for Medard, who is equally at home on the wing. "Maxime is a very good player and he will only improve," the flanker told PA Sport. "Last year, his confidence was very high, he played so well and his physicality was incredible.
"He is strong, has a good step and I think he will be a famous player for France for years to come."
Bouilhou's Toulouse will undoubtedly be Bath's biggest obstacle in Pool Five. The club from the south-west of France, three-time European champions, narrowly lost to Munster in last season's Heineken Cup final but managed to go on and win the French title.
They have strengthened their squad with the signings of France fly-halves Frederic Michalak and David Skrela, and their recent demolition of Montauban in the Top 14 suggests they are starting to hit some form after an inauspicious start to the new campaign. Toulouse were hit by serious injuries to a number of key players, including Clerc, Clement Poitrenaud and Florian Fritz last term but they still managed to do well on both European and domestic fronts.
Bouilhou sees no reason why his team-mates cannot repeat the feat this year. ``We will try to do the same as last season because we have a very large squad with some very good players,'' he said.
"We can change one player with another and the level of the team does not drop. That is important in today's game.
"We will do our best to challenge in both competitions and we have our fingers crossed we don't get any injuries.
"Last year, we lost three players and they were three key players in our team. But the group responded well then and that is why we are confident now."
Newport Gwent Dragons and Glasgow Warriors are the other teams in the group so, on paper at least, it looks a two-horse race to seal automatic qualification.
However, in his assessment of the pool, Bouilhou maintains there is no room for complacency. "You have to say it's a high-quality group," he said. "Bath are a great team and doing well in the English championship so we know there will be two very hard games against them.
"We know they have some very dangerous backs so we have to be careful.
"Newport are also a threat. We played them a few years ago and we lost away, so we know it will be difficult to beat them on their ground.
"And although Glasgow are the second team in Scotland, they have good players and we see from their national team that Scottish sides are strong and organised.
"We have to be careful everywhere."
© PA Sport
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