Saturday 20 January 2018

Contepomi in line for O'Gara showdown as Saint-Andre vows to ring changes

Contepomi: familiar foe
Contepomi: familiar foe
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

FORMER Leinster star Felipe Contepomi is in line for a return to Thomond Park when Munster entertain big-spending Toulon in the Heineken Cup on Saturday.

And the Argentine could go head-to-head with old foe Ronan O'Gara after Toulon head coach Philippe Saint-Andre hinted that he will be making extensive changes for the trip to Ireland, with star out-half Jonny Wilkinson set to be rested.

"I will change some players and rest a few," said the former France international.

"We have guys like Felipe Contepomi who will start next week."

Wilkinson starred for the Top 14 outfit in their 19-14 win over Ospreys, kicking 14 points and putting fellow England international Paul Sackey in for the game's decisive try.

But with Toulon facing away matches against Stade Francais, Toulouse and Perpignan in the league after the trip to Thomond, Wilkinson is likely to be left out, with Contepomi in line to play at No 10 or at centre.

However, Wilkinson believes that the Toulon squad, which boasts 16 full international players from nine different nations, won't be weakened regardless of the starting side.

"A good strength to have at a club is being able to say there is no first team or reserve/second team," said Wilkinson. "You want to have a team where everyone is capable and can play at the same level.

"If you have that, then that is great. There are certain partnerships which tend to work, or you want to use certain combinations against certain opposition, but that's the joy of rugby. Everyone deserves their turn because all the players work hard for a place.

"There are players playing for their lives rather than just out there knowing that they will play next week. It is impossible to answer the question as to how strong the team against the Ospreys was.

"We train together every day and you do hate the fact that some players are not playing, or not playing as much as others. That is one of the unfortunate side-effects, but you need a big squad. It wasn't a weakened team out there but I'm encouraged that the players came in and showed they deserve to play."

Despite their stellar names, Toulon came in for some criticism for their style of play against the Welsh region, with Ospreys coach Scott Johnson stating he almost fell asleep during the match.

"Toulon didn't play much rugby -- they just held on to the ball for long periods against us. They held onto the ball for so long at times I was almost falling asleep," he said.

However, Saint-Andre made no apologies for their style and hinted they could adopt a similar approach this weekend.

"The Ospreys are very strong and very good with a strong back-row. We knew we had to be physical and we were," he said.

"They have a big defence. We had to get our tactics right, using pick-and-goes around rucks and putting the ball in the air to put pressure on them. It was our first match in the Heineken Cup and it was superb to win it."

Irish Independent

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