Preview: Toulon v Sale Sharks

Date published: January 13 2017

Toulon have made wholesale changes to their side for their game against Sale Sharks at Stade Mayol on Sunday.

Wales international Leigh Halfpenny comes back into the side at full-back with James O'Connor switching to the right wing with Axel Muler dropping out of the squad completely. On the left wing Bryan Habana replaces Vincent Clerc.

In the centres Mathieu Bastareaud rejoins Ma'a Nonu as he takes his place at outside centre, replacing Maxime Mermoz.

In the forward pack Juan Fernandez Lobbe replaces South African international Juandre Kruger with Samu Manoa and Jocelino Suta starting in the second-row in place of Swan Rebbadj and Mamuka Gorgodze.

The front-row is completely changed with Marcel Van Der Merwe, Guilhem Guirado and Laurent Delboulbès all starting.

Meanwhile, Steve Diamond has made several changes to his side, and named Will Addison as captain.

The front-row is unchanged from last week, with Ross Harrison, Rob Webber, and Halani Aulika starting. Jonathan Mills comes into the starting XV, replacing Andrei Ostrikov, and he partners Bryn Evans at lock.

There are three changes in the back-row, with Magnus Lund, David Seymour and Laurence Pearce starting.

Mike Phillips is named at scrum-half, alongside Sam James at fly-half. Mark Jennings partners captain Addison in the centres. Paolo Odogwu and Josh Charnley start on the wings, with Mike Haley at full-back.

Ahead of the European tie, Diamond said: "The team is playing well, but it's not converting enough of the opportunities created, we just need to go there and convert them against a stiffer opposition – that's the job in hand. We need to go out there & be highly competitive."

Form: The last time Toulon hosted Sale (2012) the Premiership side suffered their heaviest defeat in the competition (0-62). Toulon have won three out of three games against Sale, scoring 94 points and conceding just 11. Toulon have a 100 percent win rate in Round 5 of the pool stage, winning all five previous matches at this juncture. Mamuka Gorgodze has made 34 tackles without missing this season; no player has made as many as the Georgian while maintaining a 100 percent success rate. Only Wesley Fofana (26) has beaten more defenders than Mike Haley (16) who has played one game less than the Clermont centre.

The teams:

Toulon: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 James O'Connor, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Pierre Bernard, 9 Sebastien Tillous-Borde, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Juan Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Liam Gill, 5 Samu Manoa, 4 Jocelino Suta, 3 Marcel Van Der Merwe, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Laurent Delboulbès
Replacements: 16 Jean-Charles Orioli, 17 Florian Fresia, 18 Levan Chilachava, 19 Juan Smith, 20 Matt Giteau, 21 Josua Tuisova, 22 Jonathan Pelissie, 23 Mamuka Gorgodze

Sale: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Paolo Odogwu, 13 Will Addison (c), 12 Mark Jennings, 11 Josh Charnley, 10 Sam James, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Laurence Pearce, 7 David Seymour, 6 Magnus Lund, 5 Jonathan Mills, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Halani Aulika, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Ross Harrison
Replacements: 16 Neil Briggs, 17 James Flynn, 18 Kieran Longbottom, 19 George Nott, 20 Ben Curry, 21 Tom Curry, 22 James Mitchell, 23 Dan Mugford

Date: Sunday, January 15
Venue: Stade Félix Mayol
Kick-off: 16:15 local (15:15 GMT)
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Stuart Gaffikin (Ireland), Ken Imbusch (Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)