We take a look at Saturday’s headline European Rugby Champions Cup between Saracens and Toulon.
Toulon will be looking to ensure themselves a place in the knockout phase of the competition by defeating Pool 3 leaders Saracens, when the two powerhouses collide at the Allianz Park on Saturday.
Saracens v Toulon | Saturday 21 January | Allianz Park | 17:15
To Win (80 Mins)
Saracens 1/4 | Draw 20/1 | Toulon 31/10
After an incredible start to both their domestic and European campaigns, Saracens looked likely to do the “double-double” by claiming both the ERCC and the Aviva Premiership again in 2016/17. A few average results later, and the Londoners now find themselves sitting in second on the Aviva log and, although leading Pool 3, are still not guaranteed to finish the group phase atop the pool. Coming off the back of two successive draws, Mark McCall’s side will look to get back to their spectacularly high standards by claiming a win at home this weekend
While captain Brad Barritt continues to serve his three-week ban (for his high tackle on Geoff Parling), flyhalf Owen Farrell, whose injury-time line break enabled Chris Ashton to score the try that salvaged Sarries their draw at Scarlets, will continue to assume command of the side. Their back row of Michael Rhodes, Schalk Burger and Jackson Wray will look to continue their storming run of form, with their physicality at the contact point sure to play a vital role if Sarries are to hold the might and mobility of the Toulon pack. A win will guarantee the defending champions top spot in Pool 3, and an easier passage to the finals – expect the home team to come out all guns blazing.
Toulon’s 27-12 defeat of Sale enabled them to remain in second place in Pool 3, and keep their hopes of progressing to the knockouts alive. Despite boasting a wealth of talent, that is the envy across the rugby-playing world, the “Galacticos” have failed to produce their best form this season. Sitting in fifth place on the Top 14 standings, Mourad Boudjellal will not deem this season’s results good enough, especially considering that they run the risk of not even qualifying for the knockout phase of both competitions.
Captain Duane Vermeulen will be looking for a huge step up in performance this weekend from his side, after their rather unconvincing display against Sale. Bryan Habana’s opportunistic try (that resulted from a charge down) and a few other soft moments from the visitors made the scoreline somewhat flattering towards Toulon, but they will know that Saracens are a different beast entirely, and that they will not receive anything of the sort this coming weekend.
Verdict Saracens 1/4
October’s try-fest between the two sides ended in a 23-31 away win for Saracens, and Toulon will be aching to avenge their defeat. If they fail to bank at least a losing bonus-point, and Scarlets beat Sale by 27 or more points, then Toulon will bow out this weekend. However, an away win will see the French giants go through at the expense of their Welsh counterparts. Saracens will start the game as favorites, and they should narrowly see off Toulon this weekend by between 5 and 8 points.