Challenge Cup: Jordan Taufua and Cheslin Kolbe bolster Lyon and Toulon respectively for European final clash

Adam Kyriacou

The European finals weekend gets underway on Friday with a fascinating all-French meeting between Lyon and Toulon at Stade Vélodrome.

After impressively overcoming Wasps and Saracens in their respective semi-finals, both sides are now just one game away from picking up silverware.

For Toulon this is quite the turnaround as they have recovered from a possible relegation dogfight to sit seventh in the Top 14, three points adrift of fourth placed La Rochelle. Lyon are one place and one point behind their final opponents, with this fixture having that league play-off battle simmering underneath.

European weekend set for kick-off

However, both these teams’ focus will solely be on Europe this week in what should be the perfect appetiser for Saturday’s main course in Marseille.

Toulon, of course, are no stranger to European finals, having won the top prize before during their glory days of Jonny Wilkinson and Matt Giteau. However, a win would see them become only the fifth side to pick up both the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup, following Bath, Northampton, Leinster and Wasps.

Past meetings in this competition see Toulon boast a vastly superior record with six wins from six, but Lyon are certainly very much on an upward curve.

“We’re not focusing on the history – it’s more about taking each game as it comes. We haven’t won anything yet. Thankfully, we’ve secured that spot in the final, but there’s still a journey to get that cup,” Lyon lock Joel Kpoku told EPCR’s website ahead of the game, with the ex-Saracen flourishing in France.

Meanwhile, Toulon back-row Charles Ollivon admits the meeting has been in their sights for some time and he’s keen to gets his hands on the prize.

“For several weeks, everyone has been involved, assuming their responsibilities, and pulling the group up. We have had his competition in the viewfinder, but we have not won anything yet,” he said as he lines up alongside Sergio Parisse and Cornell du Preez.

Elsewhere, there is a welcome boost for Toulon as Springbok wing Cheslin Kolbe returns to the backline while Julien Hériteau comes in at number 13.

For Lyon they are also bolstered by a return as Jordan Taufua comes into the side at number eight to skipper the team in their quest for silverware.

Prediction: Toulon by 5

The teams:

Lyon: 15 Toby Arnold, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Pierre-Louis Barassi, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Davit Niniashvili, 10 Leo Berdeu, 9 Baptiste Couilloud, 8 Jordan Taufua (c), 7 Patrick Sobela, 6 Dylan Cretin, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Joel Kpoku, 3 Demba Bamba, 2 Guillaume Marchand, 1 Sébastien Taofifenua
Replacements: 16 Mickael Ivaldi, 17 Hamza Kaabèche, 18 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 19 Felix Lambey, 20 Loann Goujon, 21 Jean-Marc Doussain, 22 Colby Fainga’a, 23 Xavier Mignot

Toulon: 15 Aymeric Luc, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Julien Hériteau, 12 Duncan Paia’aua, 11 Gabin Villière, 10 Louis Carbonel, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Charles Ollivon (c), 6 Cornell du Preez, 5 Brian Alainu’uese, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Beka Gigashvili, 2 Christopher Tolofua, 1 Jean-Baptiste Gros
Replacements: 16 Anthony Etrillard, 17 Bruce Devaux, 18 Emerick Setiano, 19 Swan Rebbadj, 20 Mathieu Smaili, 21 Julien Blanc, 22 Jiuta Wainiqolo, 23 Facundo Isa

Date: Friday, May 27
Venue: Stade Velodrome, Marseille
Kick-off: 21:00 local (20:00 BST, 19:00 GMT)
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant Referees: Andrew Brace (Ireland), Frank Murphy (Ireland)
TMO: Ian Tempest (England)

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