Toulon target repeat win
December 17, 2010
Felipe Contepomi starts ahead of Jonny Wilkinson for Toulon © Getty Images
Toulon will look to heap Heineken Cup woe on Pool 3 rivals London Irish when the two sides clash at the Stade Felix Mayol on Saturday.
The big-spending Top 14 side scored a hard-fought 19-13 victory over the Exiles at the Madejski Stadium last Sunday to push the Premiership side towards the euro exit door. And a repeat success for the hosts in the south of France will keep the pressure on rivals Munster and Ospreys ahead of the final two rounds of pool action.
All is not lost for Irish, who have now lost six games on the bounce, but they must end that slump in the cauldron that is the Stade Mayol to keep their distant Heineken Cup hopes alive.
Toulon - Player to Watch: Skipper Joe van Niekerk is more often than not the heartbeat of the Toulon side and will no doubt spearhead their challenge once again in front of the Stade Mayol faithful, who worship him.
Toulon - Team News: Toulon have rested Jonny Wilkinson after his hand guided the side to victory last week, but Felipe Contepomi's inclusion hardly weakens the French side. Rory Lamont and Tom May also come into the team, while Davit Kubriashvili, Mickael Ivaldi, Laurent Emmanuelli, Jocelino Suta and George Smith start up front.
London Irish - Player to Watch: Fullback Delon Armitage caught the eye with a busy display at the Madejski Stadium and was rewarded with a try. In-form and with his side's euro hopes on the line, you can expect another big display.
London Irish - Team News: Two changes for Toby Booth as Dan Bowden starts at inside centre, while Chris Malone gets the nod at 10.
Key Battle: Two new fly-halves will battle for control at the Stade Felix Mayol as Contepomi matches up against Malone. Wilkinson did damage last week, but Contepomi adds a creative and unpredictable dimension. Malone is a safe pair of hands who will punish indiscretions.
Trivia: Toulon's Stade Felix Mayol has played host to just one other Heineken Cup game - their narrow 19-14 victory over the Ospreys in Round 1.
Stats: London Irish have played 10 games against French opponents in the Heineken Cup - winning five and losing five of those matches.
Quote Unquote:"Jonny is happy with us and I think he will sign for one more year plus a one-year option." - Toulon director of rugby Philippe Saint-Andre hints that Jonny Wilkinson is poised to extend his stay in Toulon.
"We know what we have to do this weekend - the opportunity for us is there and we will be looking to take it. From a Heineken Cup point-of-view, it's a 'do or die' situation" - London Irish's Toby Booth is focused on the win.
PredictionToulon have rung the changes but van Niekerk's retention and Contepomi's invention mean they remain strong. Irish need to win, but it looks beyond them.
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