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Preview: Bayonne v Toulon

14th August 2014 15:21

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Mathieu Bastareaud v Bayonne 2013

Wrecking ball: Mathieu Bastareaud will look to maintain last season's form

After finally claiming the Bouclier de Brennus after a 22-year wait, Toulon will start the defence of their title away at Bayonne.

Having last season joined Toulouse as the only French side to achieve the European and domestic double, Toulon have not rested on their laurels, making some blockbuster signings to bolster their squad.

While Jonny Wilkinson, Joe Van Niekerk and Danie Roussow have all retired, Mamuka Gorgodze, Leigh Halfpenny, James O'Connor and a number of others have arrived to take their places.

Unfortunately for Bernard Laporte though, Gorgodze picked up a knee injury in Toulon's final pre-season game, while Halfpenny is still to play for his new club as he recovers from an adductor injury.

In fact Laporte almost found himself without a full back row available, with Virgile Bruni and Steffon Armitage also picking up knocks and Juan Martin Fernandez-Lobbe and Juan Smith on international duty.

However the former two have recovered in time, and will be available, while new signing Guilhem Guirado will be able to celebrate his call-up to France's elite group with a competitive debut.

For Bayonne it looks to be a season of survival, with an unusually low-key off-season on the recruitment front, and more faith being put in the club's youngsters.

New boss Patricio Noriega was however bullish about his team's chances at home to the defending champions, and there are certainly worse times to take on Toulon.

He will have at his disposal two of Bayonne's off-season recruits, Georgian prop Giorgi Jgenti and Kiwi fly-half Blair Stewart.

And having lost this fixture 15-9 last season in February, Bayonne will be keen to get some revenge this time around.

However Toulon impressed in their pre-season matches, and will be looking to lay down a marker in the first game of the post-Wilkinson era.

Bayonne: 15 Scott Spedding, 14 Martin Bustos Moyano, 13 Joe Rokocoko, 12 Mathieu Ugalde, 11 Marvin O'Connor, 10 Santiago Fernandez, 9 Christophe Loustalot, 8 Charles Ollivon, 7 Dwayne Haare, 6 Jean Monribot, 5 Mark Chisholm (c), 4 Dewald Senekal, 3 Giorgi Jgenti, 2 Gregory Arganese, 1 Janse Van Rensburg
Replacements: 16 Simon Labouyrie, 17 Aretz Iguiniz, 18 Lisiate Fa'aoso, 19 Jean Jo Marmouyet, 20 Guillaume Rouet, 21 Blair Stewart, 22 Gabiriele Lovobalavu, 23 Gert Muller

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

Date: Friday, August 15
Venue: Stade Jean Dauger
Kick-off: 20.45 local (19.45 GMT)
Referee: Jérôme Garcès
Assistant referees: Nicolas Datas, Christophe Malterre

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Saturday , September 20
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