Preview: Leicester v Toulon

Date published: December 5 2014

Toulon can take a giant step towards the quarter-finals this weekend if they manage to win at Welford Road against Leicester.

The defending champions have already picked up a win on the road at Ulster, and another success would leave them all but assured of top spot with two home games still to come.

To do so, they will have to beat a Leicester side that pushed them all the way the last time the two sides met.

On that occasion in a 2013 quarter-final, two yellow cards for Toby Flood and Dan Cole, proved costly.

Jonny Wilkinson kicked all the points for Toulon that day, but he, like Flood, is now gone. Matt Giteau will also be missing for the French champions, as will Leigh Halfpenny.

That places a lot of pressure on Nicolas Sanchez at fly-half, but the Argentine ten has shown that he can cope with the pressure.

In a blockbuster pack, the standout name for Leicester fans will no doubt be Martin Castrogiovanni, who returns to the ground where he enjoyed so much success during a seven-year spell with the Tigers.

He will start at tighthead ahead of Carl Hayman, with Chris Masoe taking over the captaincy at number eight.

Leicester welcome back their own skipper Ben Youngs, fresh from helping England past Australia last weekend.

More important could be the fitness of Cole, who will be charged with helping the Tigers scrum dominate up front.

His return is one of just three changes from the team that edged past Wasps last week.

Matt Smith comes into the centres, with Vereniki Goneva shifting to the wing, while Jordan Crane replaces Laurence Pearce at number eight.

Form: Leicester have won their last two games in the Premiership since a 21-21 draw at home to Saracens. Toulon, meanwhile, got back to winning ways by beating Clermont on Saturday, moving to the summit of the Top 14 table in the process. These two sides met in the quarter-finals in 2013, with the French side edging a tryless affair, 21-15, on their way to a maiden title.

The teams:

Leicester: 15 Matthew Tait, 14 Blaine Scully, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Ben Youngs (c), 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Marcos Ayerza
Replacements: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Geoff Parling, 20 Robert Barbieri, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Miles Benjamin

Toulon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Drew Mitchell, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Sebastien Tillous-Borde, 8 Chris Masoe (c), 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Mamuka Gorgodze, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Xavier Chiocci
Replacements: 16 Jean-Charles Orioli, 17 Florian Fresia, 18 Carl Hayman, 19 Juan Smith, 20 Rudi Wulf, 21 Jocelino Suta, 22 Eric Escande, 23 Romain Taofifenua

Date:Sunday, 7 December
Venue: Welford Road, Leicester
Kick-off: 17:30 GMT
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)