Planet Rugby

Preview: Cardiff Blues v Toulon

18th October 2013 10:59

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Matt Giteau C of Toulon is held up by Leigh Halfpenny R of Cardiff Blues

Dangerman: Matt Giteau

Cardiff Blues face a mammoth task in overturning reigning Heineken Cup champions in their Pool 2 encounter at the Arms Park on Saturday.

Despite being able to call upon an abundance of British and Irish Lions tourists, including captain Sam Warburton, Alex Cuthbert and man-of-the-series Leigh Halfpenny, the Blues have struggled in their early Pro12 fixtures, with their only two victories coming over strugglers Connacht and Edinburgh at home.

Their opening European clash with Exeter Chiefs last Saturday ended in a humiliating 44-29 defeat, with the Chiefs securing a try bonus point within half an hour at Sandy Park.

The recently-returned Lions must get up to speed if the Blues are to improve upon their poor form across the board so far, and attain the measure of success so imminently achievable with such high-calibre players among their ranks.

Toulon, simply put, have an outrageous wealth of talent, experience and depth to their squad. Any backline including Jonny Wilkinson, Matt Giteau and Maxime Mermoz is likely to score tries, and that is exactly what the champions did in their opening Heineken Cup fixture.

The Top14 giants blitzed Glasgow in forty minutes of scintillating rugby. Not only that, but they dominated heavily at the scrum - an area in which the Scots are generally solid, and the Blues are less so.

Though the Warriors mounted something of a comeback in the second period, Toulon still cantered to an eventual 51-28 victory. Worrying signs for a Cardiff side so comprehensively defeated by the Chiefs.

One glimmer of hope for the Welsh outfit can be glimpsed in Toulon's typically French and somewhat flaky away form. For all their illustrious names, their only Top 14 triumph on the road came against basement boys Biarritz, and suffered defeats to newly-promoted Oyonnax, Grenoble and Castres.

The champions will look to strengthen their grip on the pool with another victory, and while the Blues are capable of challenging them at the Arms Park, their poor form suggests they will struggle to do so.

Robin Copeland has been named at number eight in place of Andries Pretorius for the Blues, whilst the other change to the team sees talented centre Owen Williams recalled to partner Cory Allen in midfield for the Blues.

Meanwhile for Toulon, Jonny Wilkinson starts and is captain despite being a doubt earlier in the week regarding a hand injury.

Steffon Armitage starts at openside flanker in place of Joe Van Niekerk.

The teams:

Cardiff Blues: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Owen Williams, 12 Cory Allen, 11 Harry Robinson, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Josh Navidi, 5 Filo Paulo, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Matthew Rees (capt), 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Marc Breeze, 17 Sam Hobbs, 18 Benoit Bourrust, 19 Lou Reed, 20 Rory Watts-Jones, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Gareth Davies, 23 Richard Smith

Toulon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Maxime Mermoz, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Rudi Wulf, 10 Jonny Wilkinson (capt), 9 Frederic Michalak, 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Juan Fernandez Lobbe, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Jean-Charles Orioli, 1 Xavier Chiocci.
Replacements: 16 Benjamin Noirot, 17 Emmanuel Felsina, 18 Carl Hayman, 19 Juan Smith, 20 Virgile Bruni, 21 Drew Mitchell, 22 Alexis Palisson, 23 Jocelino Suta.

Date: Saturday, October 19
Venue: Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff
Kick-off: 13:35 BST (12.35 GMT)
Referee: JP Doyle

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