Irish aim to send Toulon packing
London Irish intend to send Jonny Wilkinson and company packing this afternoon in the same fashion as Munster made their Madejski Stadium exit two months ago.
Pool Three in this season's Heineken Cup, as widely predicted, is shaping up to be the tightest group as the quarter-final race gathers momentum. Just two points separate leaders Munster and Wilkinson's Toulon in fourth, suggesting a fight to the finish when the pool stage concludes next month.
While the Ospreys head to Limerick, Irish know they must make home advantage count against a Toulon side packed with ex-Premiership players, including Wilkinson and former Exiles wing Paul Sackey. But having defeated Munster 23-17 in their tournament opener, it is not a challenge that should prove beyond them.
"The group of death is going to be an interesting one to watch over the next two weeks," said Irish head coach Toby Booth. "Things are standing pretty much equal, with each team having won its first home game. Back on our home turf this weekend we will be looking to put in a repeat of our strong performance against Munster. We've trained hard this week, are focused and all out to win." Booth welcomes back Samoan wing Sailosi Tagicakibau following his injury troubles this term as Irish look to end a run of five successive defeats in all competitions.
Tony Hanks, meanwhile, insists Wasps will not take their eye off the ball when they resume Heineken Cup action today. Wasps' group, Pool Six, appears to be hurtling towards a decider next month between the Londoners and reigning European champions Toulouse, who beat Glasgow on Friday night and are currently top.
But Hanks knows his players cannot afford to be distracted by that intriguing possibility. Wasps still face tricky away encounters against tomorrow's opponents Newport Gwent Dragons -- albeit at Cardiff City Stadium, rather than a frozen Rodney Parade -- and Glasgow in their quest for quarter-final status.
"We are preparing for this game on its own merits," said Hanks, Wasps' rugby director. "We are not concerning ourselves with games later in the pool stages. We are focused on what is in front of us now, and that is a strong Newport Gwent Dragons side. The last four weekends do not mean anything [Wasps are unbeaten since November 6] unless we get the result on Sunday.
"Returning to the Heineken Cup, we are aware of the challenge ahead and have only one focus -- to secure the result through a strong performance."
London Irish v Toulon,
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