By Alan Dymock
AS CLASHES go, Toulon versus Racing Metro draws more attention that John McCririck’s wardrobe.
The two superstar-stables do battle in the second round of France’s Top 14 this Friday, with the Parisiens coming off the back of a narrow home win against promoted side Brive, 19-14 and Toulon hoping to recover from a 22-all draw with Montpellier. Prepare yourself for the big guns.
With the team announcements we are hit with the enormity of the clash: Jonny Wilkinson versus Jonny Sexton; Andrew Sheridan and Carl Hayman versus Soane Tonga’uiha and Brian Mujati; Matt Giteau versus Jamie Roberts. There are some blockbuster collisions ahead, but more so than this there is a real technical element to this match that may not enthrall, but will certainly demand detailed analysis.
If you are looking for fireworks, though, then you can look to the benches.
Toulon’s bench for tomorrow night includes: Sebastien Bruno, Danie Rossouw, Pierrick Gunther, Mathieu Bastareaud, Michael Claassens and Martin Castrogiovanni. Racing’s bench boasts: Eddy Ben Arous, Dan Lydiate Jonathan Wisniewski, Fabrice Estebanez and Luc Ducalcon.
There is no other way to prepare for this one than to wrap a mattress round your midriff, don a helmet and hunker down. This is Millionaire’s marbles and it could get ugly. The winner of this one may not go on to win the Top 14, but this is what all the transfer diddling has been for.
Of course, it’s not all over yet. Juan Smith might be in to challenge for a back-row spot alongside Toulon’s big names by the time the return fixture is played in Paris.
Toulon: Delon Armitage; Vincent Martin, Maxime Mermoz, Matt Giteau, David Smith; 10.Jonny Wilkinson (c), Sébastien Tillous-Borde; Steffon Armitage, Chris Masoe, Virgile Bruni; Jocelino Suta, Bakkies Botha, Carl Hayman, Benjamin Noirot, 1.Andrew Sheridan.
Subs: Sébastien Bruno, Xavier Chiocci, Danie Rossouw, Pierrick Gunther, Mathieu Bastareaud, Josua Tuisova, Michael Claassens, Martin Castrogiovanni.
Racing: Benjamin Lapeyre; Adrien Plante, Henry Chavancy, Jamie Roberts, Marc Andreu; Jonny Sexton, Sebastien Descons; Masi Matadigo, Laurent Wenceslas, Fabrice Metz, Francois Van der Merwe, Brian Mjati, Dimitri Szarzewski (c), Soane Tonga’uiha.
Subs: Virgile Lacombe, Eddy Ben Arous, Karim Ghezal, Dan Lydiate, Laurent Magnaval, Jonathan Wisniewski, Fabrice Estebanez, Luc Ducalcon.