Jonny Wilkinson made sure Toulon made a winning Heineken Cup debut – he created their try and kicked the remaining 14 points in their 19-14 home win over Ospreys – and the established England No 10 and now the French club’s new talisman and fans favourite is preparing to spearhead Toulon’s challenge in the lion’s den of former double champions Munster.
Both opening Pool 3 matches went with home advantage and Wilkinson’s experience after years at the very top could be the crucial ingredient at an intimidating Thomond Park.
But Wilkinson insists it is all about togetherness at Stade Felix Mayol and that it will need that team spirit – and total commitment from first to last – to challenge the 2006 and 2008 champions on their own turf.
“The match against the Ospreys emphasised that in this type of game, when you play a top team like the Ospreys, that you have to keep working from moment one until the final whistle,” said Wilkinson.
“That is important for us to understand and I hope it also reinforces the message that we are capable of winning big games if we keep turning up and working together. The spirit of this club is all about working together.
“There is no doubt in my mind that the success we did have last season was because we worked together. We have a spirit which no-one prepared for or manufactured. It’s all from working together.
“Sometimes, you have to try and fight to keep that going. Moments at the end of games like the one against the Ospreys either make a side come closer together or whether it all falls apart.
“We kept fighting with the right intentions and we got away with it.”
Toulon fell at the final hurdle last season when Cardiff Blues beat them 28-21 in the Amlin Challenge Cup final in Marseille in front of a tournament match record crowd of 48,990 and Wilkinson is far from a lone big name in a squad containing 16 internationals from nine nations.
And Head Coach Philippe Saint-Andre has proved he is not afraid to ring the changes week by week.
“A good strength to have at a club is the fact of being able to say there is no first team or reserve/second team,” said Wilkinson.
“You want to have a team where everyone is capable and can play at the same level.
“If you have that then that is great. There are certain partnerships which tend to work, or you want to use certain combinations against certain opposition, but that’s the joy of rugby. Everyone deserves their turn because all the players work hard for a place.
“There are players playing for their lives rather than just out there knowing that they will play next week and i is impossible to answer the question as to how strong the team against the Ospreys was
“We train together every day and you do hate the fact that some players are not playing, or not playing as much, as others. That is one of the unfortunate side-effects but you need a big squad. It wasn’t a weakened team out there but I’m encouraged that the players came in showed they deserve to play.”Like Rugby World? Subscribe to the magazine for the latest comprehensive content.
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