Irish seek home comforts
December 10, 2010
Ryan Lamb has proven a reliable source of points for London Irish this term © Getty Images
London Irish will be hoping that a return to the Madejski Stadium will bring about a return to winning ways when they welcome Toulon to Reading on Sunday afternoon.
The Exiles kicked off their Heineken Cup campaign with a stirring home victory over European giants Munster but then came unstuck in Swansea the following weekend, going down 27-16 to the Ospreys.
Remarkably, that saw Irish drop from top spot to bottom in the tightest pool in this year's competition. They are level on points, though, with Toulon, who started with a battling win over the Ospreys before being given a lesson by Munster at Thomond Park in round two.
London Irish - Player to Watch: Samoan centre Seilala Mapusua was in eye-catching form on the international stage last month and the Exiles desperately need him to inject some magic into their euro campaign.
London Irish - Team News: Powerhouse Sailosi Tagicakibau starts for the first time since October after coming off the bench last weekend. He is joined on the wing by young Exiles star Jonathan Joseph. Bob Casey joins Nick Kennedy in the second row and James Buckland returns to start as hooker.
Toulon - Player to Watch: Fly-half Jonny Wilkinson returned from injury to steer his side past Montpellier last time out and having shaken off the effects of the flu he will be centre of attention once again at the Madejski Stadium.
Toulon - Team News: Coach Philippe Saint-Andre has tweaked the side that accounted for Montpellier last weekend with Benjamin Lapeyre earning a promotion to the starting XV at fullback. As a result Rudi Wulf switches to the left wing while Gabi Lovobalavu returns to the No.12 shirt. Joe van Niekerk will lead the side once again from No.8 in a back-row that sees recalls handed to Joe El Abd and Olivier Missoup. Kris Chesney and Dean Schofield form an all-English second row while Saimone Taumoepeau comes in at loose-head alongside Sebastian Bruno and Carl Hayman.
Key Battle: Exiles fly-half Ryan Lamb has often been criticised for not delivering on his potential and he will no doubt relish to prove his doubters wrong in a high-profile showdown with his idol Wilkinson. However, the England veteran was in deadly form with the boot last time out and the contrast in styles between the clinical Wilkinson and the more expressive Lamb should ensure for a fascinating contest.
Trivia: London Irish's Heineken Cup high came during the 2007-08 season where their quest for European glory was ended by a 21-15 defeat at the hands of Toulouse.
Stats: While Toulon may lack Heineken Cup experience, many of their players have graced the tournament before with Argentine Felipe Contepomi leading the way with a total of 36 tournament appearances before this season with Bristol and Leinster.
"There are elements we can control and elements we can't, but that doesn't get away from the fact that we must control the game to a greater extent ourselves." - Exiles boss Toby Booth targets some improvement from his side.
"If we have the right mentality we could do really well at Irish but we are all aware of the quality they have and after a few defeats they will want to bounce back." - Toulon wing Paul Sackey is wary of the challenge posed by Irish.
Prediction: With everything to play for in this 'pool of death', we can expect a highly-charged and entertaining clash with home advantage set to be the springboard for the Exiles' latest euro success.
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