Billed as the battle of the big-bucks, two teams laden with the best of foreign talent go head to head on Friday as Toulon continue their quest for a domestic and European double.
In spite of the star-studded squads, this looks likely to be a game of attrition, as both teams prefer to use their packs to maximum effect, and make great use of uber-reliable goal kickers in the form of the Jonnys; Sexton and Wilkinson, and their usually reliable backups Maxime Machenaud and Frederic Michalak.
On form and on paper its hard to imagine Toulon’s gargantuan forwards losing the battle up front, and Racing will need big performances from their back row, in particular flankers Antoine Battut and Bernard Le Roux.
Despite struggling with form all season and not usually making the starting team, the loss of Dan Lydiate to injury is a major inconvenience to Metro. Likely to be on the back foot for much of the game, Sexton will have to draw upon all of his big game experience to keep his side’s ship on course. Aside from his phenomenal talents, the Irishman’s winning mentality and sometimes infuriating arrogance will be key to giving his side the belief and clinical performance they need.
Overall however, Toulon are favorites for a reason and it will take a huge performance to stop them .Racing need to take every chance that comes their way and keep perfect discipline to restrict the effect of Wilkinson’s boot to a minimum.
Expect the forward battle to be won in the 3rd quarter and a few scores tacked on late as a spirited Metro performance falls short.
Gary Walsh, Pundit Arena.