Preview: Toulon v Scarlets

Date published: December 9 2016

Toulon have made a few changes to their side to play Scarlets at the Stade Félix Mayol on Sunday.

In the backline, there is only one change as Australia international Drew Mitchell is replaced by fellow countryman James O’Connor in the 14 jersey.

In the forward pack, Samu Manoa retains his place at eight but there is a switch up at flank with Mamuka Gorgodze moving from lock to the seven jersey and Charles Ollivon also starting on the side of the scrum.

The lock pairing has also changed with Romain Taofifenua and Jocelino Suta starting after Gorgodze’s move and the only change to the front row is Xavier Chiocci replacing Florian Fresia in the one jersey.

Meanwhile, Scarlets welcome the return of four international players to the squad ahead of Sunday’s clash.

Whilst Jonathan Davies misses out on the third round clash with a tight hamstring head coach Wayne Pivac is in a position to welcome the return of Welsh internationals Liam Williams, Scott Williams and Ken Owens as well as Scottish international John Barclay.

Both Scarlets and Toulon are one win from two in the Champions Cup campaign following the opening rounds with Saracens sitting atop of pool three with two victories and nine points.

Speaking ahead of the game head coach Wayne Pivac said: “The squad’s in very good shape, boys are in a good made and so they should be after a run of wins. We’ve drip fed the internationals back in this time; some came back in last week and the ones who had a higher volume of minutes played had a few days off.

“It’s been good to have them back. It’s raised the level of the training sessions and there’s been a lot of competition – you can see that within the group.

“For the first time in two and a half years we’ve sat down and had a dilemma across the board, one to 15, we’ve got some good selection headaches.”

In the region’s last outing at the Stade Felix Mayol the Scarlets threatened for over an hour to pull off an historic European win but fell short in the closing minutes. Pivac will be hoping to see the same commitment and determination this time around.

He said: “This is a massive test for us. There’s a different buzz around training because it’s European week. We’ve got fond memories of going out there two and a half years ago. It was a great occasion; the boys who played there have spoken fondly of it. We’re certainly looking forward to this game and it does keep our hopes in the competition alive. We’ll be going there looking to maximise our opportunities and trying to get a win.”

Form: The Scarlets face the ultimate test when they visit Toulon before welcoming the Top 14 giants to Llanelli a week later. While Toulon’s power, prestige and world-class ability makes them a force to be reckoned with, the Scarlets have been on a decent run of form themselves following a disappointing start to the league campaign. They make the trip to the Stade Mayol still in with a chance of qualification for the latter stages with one win and a defeat so far in Europe this term. Toulon suffered a 31-23 loss to champions Saracens in their tournament opener before claiming a 15-5 win at Sale Sharks in Round Two. Scarlets’ campaign started with a 28-11 home win against Sale Sharks before losing  44-26 to Saracens in their Round Two fixture at Allianz Park.

The teams:

Toulon: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 James O’Connor, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Pierre Bernard, 9 Jonathan Pelissie, 8 Samu Manoa, 7 Mamuka Gorgodze, 6 Charles Ollivon, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Jocelino Suta, 3 Marcel Van Der Merwe, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Xavier Chiocci
Replacements: 16 Jean-Charles Orioli, 17 Laurent Delboulbès, 18 Levan Chilachava, 19 Juandre Kruger, 20 Maxime Mermoz, 21 Jimmy Yobo, 22 Eric Escande, 23 Duane Vermeulen

Scarlets: 15 Liam Williams, 14 DTH van der Merwe, 13 Hadleigh Parkes, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 John Barclay, 7 James Davies, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Tom Price, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Ken Owens (c), 1 Wyn Jones
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Samson Lee, 19 Tadhg Beirne, 20 Will Boyde, 21 Jonathan Evans, 22 Aled Thomas, 23 Gareth Owen

Date: Sunday, December 11
Venue: Stade Félix Mayol
Kick-off: 16:15 local (15:15 GMT)
Referee: Greg Garner (England)
Assistant Referees: Luke Pearce (England), Nigel Carrick (England)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)