Giteau back for make-or-break Toulon match

2017-01-12 14:17
Matt Giteau (Getty)

Paris - Three-time champions Toulon welcome back Australian playmaker Matt Giteau for their make-or-break match against Sale this weekend, when a number of teams could guarantee themselves spots in the European Champions Cup quarter-finals.

Toulon trail reigning champions Saracens by eight points in Pool 3 and with a visit to the English giants in round 6, their penultimate round-robin outing against the Sharks has become a must-win encounter.

Giteau, a key man in Toulon's hat-trick of titles from 2013-15, is back to fitness after suffering a broken ankle and an additional leg fracture playing for the Wallabies against New Zealand in the Rugby Championship.

"We have to show that we are hungry," insisted Toulon coach Mike Ford, having seen his side hammered 30-6 by Clermont in Top 14 action last weekend.

"Jonny Wilkinson's Toulon no longer exists. We must draw a line under our glorious past. We are no longer at the top of the tree in Europe. Before, Toulon were the ones being chased driven out, but now we are the hunters.

"We must approach matches with a different mentality. I think that all teams playing against Toulon are no longer afraid. We must not forget that we didn't win anything last season."

The beauty of the European Cup is that just the five pool winners are guaranteed of progressing to the knock-out phase, the three other places going to the best finishing second-placed teams.

It means there is rude competition throughout pool play to seal one of those eight places.

Saracens are the only unbeaten side left in the competition, while Leinster and French league leaders Clermont, who travel to Top 14 rivals Bordeaux-Begles, have only lost once and top pools 4 and 5 respectively.

Munster and Glasgow, also with one loss apiece, are locked at the top of Pool 1, with Leicester in third and Racing92, last year's beaten finalists, pointless in fourth. And pool 2 sees a three-way shared lead between Wasps, Toulouse and Connacht, Italian whipping boys Zebre bottom.

Leinster have 16 points from their four matches so far and know they will advance to the final eight if they overcome Montpellier at home on Friday.

"There's a lot of us without any medals in our back pockets and you look at the senior guys with a lot of them," prop Tadhg Furlong said of the Irish province which won European honours in 2009, 2011 and 2012.

"As a younger player you try to pay homage to what the lads have done but, in your own way, move it on a bit as well.

"For lads to make European debuts last year, and then get knocked out in the pool stages with the tradition that the club has, does hurt and it definitely feeds the desire for this year."

Arguably one of the matches of the weekend will be Munster's trip to Glasgow on Saturday, with the two teams having hit some great form.

The Irish province smashed Racing last week and have already beaten the Warriors, 38-17, in the second round of matches.

But Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend said his team knew what to expect, explaining: "Munster will come at us with ball in hand and are very physical.

"It will be a real test of how we deal with their high balls and their set-piece challenge. We will have to be better if we want to win."

Read more on:    toulon  |  matt giteau  |  rugby


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