Heineken Cup: Toulon v Leicester Tigers match preview

A look ahead to Sunday's quarter-final clash

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The Independent Online

The Heineken Cup tie of the weekend see’s the star-studded Toulon side entertain English giants Leicester Tigers at the Stade Felix Mayol on Sunday evening, and it’s a mouth-watering clash between the stalwarts of European rugby and the money-rich newcomers.

Toulon have only reached this stage of the Cup on one occasion in 2011, when they lost to Perpignan. However, they have continued to strengthen their side since then - a prime example being that Grand Slam winning prop Gethin Jenkins cannot get into the starting line-up ahead of Andrew Sheridan.

Leicester enter the game in solid form, though their dismantling of rivals Northampton Saints last week will give them the momentum they will need as they head to the south of France. They remain on course for a home semi-final play-off in the Aviva Premiership as they sit comfortably in second place behind leaders Saracens, and they will be targeting a double should they triumph on the Cote D'Azur.

The French club lead the way in the Top 14, and having won three of their last four against Toulouse, Biarritz and Stade Francais, they will be full of confidence heading into the game.

Sunday will also see the first time two friends go head-to-head at fly-half, as Jonny Wilkinson will face his apprentice Toby Flood. The two - who both come from the Surrey town of Frimley - played together for Newcastle Falcons and England before going their separate ways. Flood took over the number 10 shirt for his country from Wilkinson, and he has since battled with Owen Farrell for starting honours, while Wilkinson's hopes of one last Lions tour looks set to disappoint due to his Top 14 commitments.

Leicester have previous history in the competition, as they remain the only side to claim back-to-back trophies in 2001 and 2002, as well as three final defeats.

Another clash in midfield see's Mathieu Bastareaud take on Manu Tuilagi in a repeat of the Six Nations face-off at Twickenham. Tuilagi scored the match-winning try that day and so far has the bragging rights over Bastareaud, and he has the wind in his sails with a try-double over Saints last week.

Toulon do have a contingent of English players throughout their squad, with Wilkinson and Sheridan joining Nick Kennedy and the Armitage brothers - Steffon and Delon - in the starting line-up, though there is no room for veteran Simon Shaw in the match-day squad.


Toulon: Delon Armitage; Rudi Wulf, Mathieu Bastareaud, Matt Giteau, Alexis Palisson; Jonny Wilkinson, Sebastien Tillous-Borde; Chris Masoe, Steffon Armitage, Juan-Martin Fernandez Lobbe; Nick Kennedy, Bakkies Botha; Carl Heyman, Sebastien Bruno, Andrew Sheridan.

Replacements: Mickael Ivaldi, Gethin Jenkins, Levan Chilachava, Jocelino Suta, Vincent Martin, Maxime Mermoz, Nicolas Durand, Joe Can Niekerk.

Leicester Tigers: Mathew Tait; Niall Morris, Manu Tuilagi, Anthony Allen, Adam Thompstone; Toby Flood, Ben Youngs; Marcos Ayerza, Tom Youngs, Dan Cole; Ed Slater, Geoff Parling; Tom Croft, Julian Salvi, Jordan Crane.

Replacements: Rob Hawkins, Logovi'i Mulipola, Martin Castrogiovanni, Grahan Kitchener, Thomas Waldrom, Sam Harrison, George Ford, Matt Smith.