French ailing ahead of Bath clash

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The Independent Online

French champions Toulouse are reeling from a massive injury crisis as they prepare for Saturday's European Cup clash against Bath.

French champions Toulouse are reeling from a massive injury crisis as they prepare for Saturday's European Cup clash against Bath.

French World Cup stars Xavier Garbajosa, Christian Califano and Cedric Soulette will miss the Recreation Ground tie, while six other players are either sidelined or face fitness tests.

Full-back Garbajosa damaged a shoulder during France's World Cup final defeat by Australia nine days ago, and prop Soulette, having replaced the suspended Califano, is also a non-starter.

Califano, banned for 50 days after butting a Fijian forward during the decisive World Cup Pool C game in Toulouse, must sit out European appointments with Bath and Swansea.

A third prop, the trio's fellow French international Jean-Louis Jordana, is another injury victim, and fly-half Yann Delaigue will also remain at home through fitness problems.

But the casualty count does not end there, as coach Guy Noves must oversee fitness tests on four players before his squad departs for Bath on Friday.

Test star Emile Ntamack, New Zealand All Black Lee Stensness - a try-scorer during last season's French Championship final victory over Montferrand in Paris - hooker Yannick Bru and flanker Mathieu Lievremont are all subject to medical checks.

Toulouse, inaugural European champions three years ago and semi-finalists in 1997 and 1998, are keen to make amends for last season's flop when they lost to eventual tournament winners Ulster at the last-eight stage.

For Bath, part of a tough qualifying group alongside Toulouse, Swansea and Padova, Saturday represents their first European Cup match since winning the title by beating Brive in January, 1998.

English clubs' mass boycott last term, which Bath supported, denied them a chance to defend the trophy.

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