Paris - Veteran Australian playmaker Matt
Giteau will line up for Toulon in Saturday's heavyweight Top 14 duel against
Toulouse as the French season builds towards a thrilling climax.
Giteau underwent a groin operation in
January, and only made his return to action in the 19-16 European Cup
quarter-final defeat by Racing 92.
The 33-year-old limped off during that game
after an hour and missed last week's Top 14 win at Pau.
"I feel fine, I have done a lot of
running and physical work," Giteau said. "This will be a tough match
against Toulouse but I am ready."
Compatriot Drew Mitchell is also set to
return for Toulon although South African winger Bryan Habana remains side-lined
from a powerful starting line-up which boasts Maxime Mermoz and Ma'a Nonu in
In a further boost to the deposed European
champions, coach Bernard Laporte said on Thursday that Welsh international star
Leigh Halfpenny, who hasn't played all season after having two knee operations,
could feature in the closing weeks of the campaign.
There are still five regular season games
to play before the six-team play-offs get underway.
Toulon are currently in third spot on 67
points, eight behind leaders Clermont, but just one back from Montpellier in
Toulon are virtually guaranteed a place in
the play-offs but the same cannot be said for 19-time French champions
They are in fifth place on 57 points, 10
behind Toulon and seven back from Racing 92.
Bordeaux and Castres - in sixth and seventh
at the start of the weekend - both have 53 points.
Toulouse remain a club in transition having
seen long-time coach Guy Noves depart for the French national team in 2015
after 22 years at the helm.
"That was the end of a cycle. Now we
are in the process of reconstruction but it can't be achieved in a day,"
said president Jean-Rene Bouscatel ahead of Saturday's game, to be played in
Coach Ugo Mola insists Toulouse remain on
the right track with a 14-3 win over Racing 92 last time out indicating that
progress is being made.
"Everyone expects us to fall and
stumble but they have to recognise that we are still there," said Mola,
whose team were co-leaders in January despite starting the campaign badly
affected by losing a host of stars to World Cup duty.
"We will prepare for the final stretch
to qualify and perhaps prove all those people wrong."
Toulouse's topsy-turvy season was
illustrated by a third failure in four years to escape the pool stages of the
Toulouse will still be without skipper and
back row star Thierry Dusautoir (foot injury) and Yoann Maestri (shoulder).
They are also missing lock Patricio
Albacete (knee), scrumhalf David Mele (triple fracture of the hand), wing Yoann
Huget (knee) as well as flank Yacouba Camara, who suffered a right knee injury
against Racing which will keep him out
for nine months.
Racing 92, who are already through to the
European Cup final where they will face Saracens in May, host Clermont on
The Paris side will look to put behind them
the controversy surrounding their Italian prop Martin Castrogiovanni who was
suspended for partying in Las Vegas last weekend when he should have been in
Nottingham to support his team in the European Cup semi-final against
Second-placed Montpellier host Grenoble and
welcome back influential lock forward Jacques Du Plessis who has finished a
three-week ban for eye-gouging in last month's Top 14 game with Racing.
Montpellier's South African coach Jake
White will start compatriot Francois Steyn at flyhalf for the first time in
place of Demetri Catrakilis who suffered a thigh injury against Newport in last
week's European Challenge Cup semi-finals.