Preview: Brive v Toulon

Date published: September 19 2014

Even for Toulon it's been an eventful week, as Mourad Boudjellal took aim at Racing, Leigh Halfpenny and the Rugby Championship.

Even by Toulon's standards it's been an eventful week, as Mourad Boudjellal took aim at Leigh Halfpenny, Racing Métro and the Rugby Championship.

The outspoken president's views have certainly sparked some debate, and have also served to brush over the fact that Toulon have lost two of their last three games in the Top 14, including a first home loss since January.

Poor goalkicking certainly played a role in the loss to Stade Français with Toulon leaving 20 points on the field including a second-half spell where they missed four shots at goal in eight minutes.

That is likely one of the reasons Boudjellal started investigating Halfpenny's injury, with the Welsh international still at least a fortnight away from a return.

The loss of Michalak to a shoulder injury leaves Toulon very thin in the fly-half department, but thankfully for the reigning champions, Matt Giteau is back this week after missing the last three games, and sparking another of Boudjellal's rants by visiting Racing's facilities.

It's fair to say Toulon's form has dipped in Giteau's absence, even their win at home to Bordeaux was a lot closer than expected.

While Giteau is back fit, Toulon are still without South African pair Bakkies Botha and Bryan Habana, as well as Pumas flanker Juan-Martín Fernández-Lobbe, despite the fact there is no Rugby Championship action this weekend.

So next up is a trip to Brive, a formidable proposition on home soil, but still one of the weaker sides in the Top 14.

Last season Toulon were well-beaten at Amédée Domenech, 23-10, despite putting out a very strong side, but are favourites with the rugby bookmakers with time around.

Brive's home form this season has been less impressive, having already lost to Clermont and only beaten Toulouse thanks to some late magic from Benito Masilevu.

The biggest issue for Les Coujous in this campaign has been their indiscipline, although that problem has been more apparent on the road.

For the second straight away game Brive picked up four yellow cards against Bayonne last Saturday, bringing them up to 11 in just six games this season.

They will have to cut out that indiscipline if they are to become the first team to beat Toulon twice in 2014, but even that might not be enough for a team who have disappointed so far this season.

Brive games have been attritional affairs for the first month and a half, and Nicolas Godignon's men currently have the worst attack in the Top 14.

In itself that is not a huge issue for a team whose philosophy revolves around a powerful pack of forwards and the accurate kicking of Gaëtan Germain.

The problem is that Germain has not been the sharpshooter he was last season, while the Brive scrum has been unconvincing.

If they can regain some of their intensity, there is every chance Brive take advantage of the current Toulon malaise to give themselves some breathing space in the lower reaches of the league.

However it seems more likely that Giteau's return will get European champions back on track with a second away win of the season.

The teams:

Brive: 15 Gaetan Germain, 14 Elia Radikedike, 13 Arnaud Mignardi, 12 Riaan Swanepoel, 11 Guillaume Namy, 10 Thomas Laranjeira, 9 Jean Baptiste Pejoine, 8 Sisa Koyamaibole, 7 Poutasi Luafutu, 6 Petrus Hauman, 5 Arnaud Mela, 4 Peet Marais, 3 Kevin Buys, 2 Guillaume Ribes, 1 Goderzi Shvelidze.
Replacements: 16 Thomas Acquier, 17 Johannes Coetzee, 18 Russlan Boukerou, 19 Hugues Briatte , 20 Damien Neveu, 21 Sevanaia Galala, 22 Benito Masilevu, 23 Pat Barnard.

Toulon: 15 Delon Armitage 14 James O'Connor, 13 Rudi Wulf, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Sebastien Tillous Borde, 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Virgile Bruni, 6 Juan Smith, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Konstantine Mikautadze, 3 Levan Chilachava, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Alexandre Menini.
Replacements: 16 Jean-Charles Orioli, 17 Xavier Chiocci, 18 Jocelino Suta, 19 Steffon Armitage, 20 Mathieu Bastareaud, 21 David Smith, 22 Eric Escande, 23 Carl Hayman.

Date: Friday, September 19
Venue: Stade Amédée Domenech
Kick-off: 20.45 local (19.45 BST, 18:45 GMT)
Referee: Pascal Gauzère
Assistant referees: Mathieu Delpy, Patrick Beuriot