Planet Rugby

Preview: Toulouse v Racing-Métro

09th May 2013 11:32

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Toulouse s Luke McAlister v Racing metro

Play-offs: Toulouse host Racing

In-form Racing-Métro travel to defending champions Toulouse on Friday to do battle for a place in the Top 14 semi-finals.

Toulouse have made the semi-finals every year since 1994 but will have to be on top of their game to overcome a Racing side that has won 11 of their last 13 league encounters.

One of those defeats came against Toulouse, thanks to Vincent Clerc scoring his second try of the game in the last minute to snatch a one-point win a few weeks ago.

Les Toulousains have claimed the French title the last two years but have not played like champions this season, losing nine matches - their worst record for four years. Manager Guy Novès will hope that the onset of the play-offs reignites their famous big-match temperament and defies the critics who believe their golden era is at an end.

Toulouse's lustre has taken a bit of a battering this season as the record four-time European Cup winners have seen their thunder stolen both domestically and abroad by Clermont and Toulon.

But Novès - who has won 12 French championships, two as a player and 10 as manager, all with Toulouse - said that league form could now be dispensed with as the play-offs had their very own flavour.

"Everyone changes during the week, from the guy who cleans out the dressing rooms to the club president. They are like a chameleon shedding its skin," he told L'Equipe this week.

"The play-offs are a moment when you must have the desire to kill somebody.

"You have to concentrate obsessively, and I mean obsessively, on the smallest detail.

"In the end advancing 50 centimetres or retreating 50 centimetres can be the difference between winning and losing."

Novès, a slippery wing who was capped seven times from 1977-79, said that he hammered into his players that this was a one-off game and therefore they could not afford to let up one moment.

"You either win because you were more determined than your opponent, or you lose and you are on holiday," " he added.

"When I hear 'We will remember that next time' that makes me laugh. But yes of course, only that you have to wait at least a year in order to do so."

The 59-year-old dismissed the fact that Toulouse had beaten Racing in both their league games this season.

"The last match was down to the last piece of play. So I don't think that counts for much," said Novès.

Racing-Metro's good end-of-season form belies the huge internal ructions at the club owned by Swiss property magnate Jacky Lorenzetti.

Victory for the hosts will bring to an end the stormy reign at Racing of former France and Italy coach - and managing director for the past season - Pierre Berbizier, who will leave the club having already been removed involvement in coaching the side.

Not only will Berbizier be departing but also their Argentinian coach Gonzalo Quesada - for bitter Parisian rivals Stade Français.

Racing are without France wing Benjamin Fall recovers from due to a thigh injury which forced him to miss the last league match although Quesada's compatriot Juan Imhoff is fit.

Toulouse are missing try-magnet Clerc, due to a serious knee injury as well as France centre Florian Fritz.

Number eight Louis Picamoles has been passed fit while wing Maxime Médard could make his return.

The teams:

Stade Toulousain: 15 Clement Poitrenaud, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Yannick Jauzion, 12 Gael Fickou, 11 Maxime Medard, 10 Luke McAlister, 9 Jean Marc Doussain, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Thierry Dusautoir, 6 Jean Bouilhou, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Yoann Maestri, 3 Census Johnston, 2 William Servat , 1 Vasil Kakovin
Replacements: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Gurthro Steenkamp, 18 Romain Millo chlusky, 19 Yannick Nyanga, 20 Luke Burgess, 21 Lionel Beauxis, 22 Yann David, 23 Jean Batiste Poux.

Racing-Métro 92: 15 Juan Martin Hernandez, 14 Juan Imhoff, 13 Henry Chavancy, 12 Fabrice Estebanez, 11 Sereli Bobo, 10 Jonathan Wisniewski, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Masinivanua Matadigo, 7 Bernard le Roux, 6 Antoine Battut, 5 Francois van der Merwe, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Luc Ducalcon, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Julien Brugnaut.
Replacements:16 Thomas Bianchin, 17 Eddy Ben arous, 18 Alvaro Galindo, 19 Jacques Cronje, 20 Sebastien Descons, 21 Alexandre Dumoulin, 22 Virimi Vakatawa, 23 Salemane Sa.

Date: Friday, May 10
Venue: Stadium de Toulouse
Kick-off: 21.00 (19.00 GMT)
Referee: Jérôme Garces

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