Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!
Wasps v Toulon | Sunday 22 November | Ricoh Arena | 17:15
This Sunday will see Wasps host French Giants Toulon in a fascinating European Champions Cup pool 5 encounter. And with the amount of quality players set to take the field on Sunday, this game promises to be an absolute classic.
To Win Match (80 Mins)
Wasps took Leinster to the cleaners last week, beating their Irish opponents by 33 points to 6. All Black, Charles Piatau, showed just why he’s on every European clubs' transfer radar with a match-winning performance. The fullback combined well with former Auckland Blues teammate Frank Halai, and their blossoming partnership has made Wasps a much more threatening side. His performance against Leinster would have gone down a treat over at the club he will be representing next year, Ulster (Leinster's arch-rivals). Christian Wade was also in fine form and linked up well with Halai and Piutau.
While the back three were vital to Wasps big win, a man who was just as pivotal but didn’t receive the same acclaim was understudy ten, Ruaridh Jackson. The bearded pivot made the most of Jimmy Gopperth’s absence; putting in a performance that’s likely to give head coach, Lee Blackett, a selection headache when the first-choice 10 returns to the fold.
While overcoming Leinster away is quite the feat, Toulon will be a totally different kettle of fish. The French side have so many quality internationals among their ranks that you would swear they were preparing for some epidemic that wipes out half the world’s rugby players. The one advantage that Wasps may hold over the French side, is their team spirit. Wasps truly personify the old adage of playing for the man next to you. None of the fifteen men who take the Ricoh Arena pitch this Sunday will be willing to give an inch.
The French club were one of the sides who had their fixture postponed due to the tragic events that perspired in France. They were scheduled to take on English stalwarts Bath at the Stade Felix Mayol last Sunday, in what would have surely been one of the games of the round.
As I mentioned in last week’s preview, Toulon have endured a sub-par start to their domestic campaign. This is mainly due to most of their superstars being at the Rugby World Cup. The return of the likes of Matt Giteau and Bryan Habana have seen an upturn in the French club's fortunes – they now occupy sixth position on the French Top 14 log and are likely to rise a few more places once the competition resumes.
Quade Cooper will make his European debut for the club this week. He was at his mercurial best in Toulon's last outing; controlling proceedings in a domestic clash against Montpellier. The pivot is likely to be partnered by French nine Jonathon Pelissie, and will have either Maxine Mermoz or Matt Giteau outside him, as new signing, Ma’a Nonu, is still recuperating from his World Cup exploits.
Toulon's third big name signing for this season, Duane Vermeulen, was set to play off the bench last weekend. With him having had another week to acclimatise, I wouldn’t be surprised if he is elevated to the starting line up. If he does crack the nod, he will join fellow South African Juan Smith in a formidable looking loose trio.
Verdict: Toulon 6/10
Wasps really impressed me last week, but I can’t see them repeating the trick against the ‘Harlem Globe Trotters’ of Rugby Union. Back Toulon to get the job done away from home at 6/10.
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