Wednesday 21 March 2018

Toulon v Munster - head-to-head

Dave Foley (centre) is a newcomer to this stage and faces a huge test against Toulouse, but BJ Botha (left) and Paul O'Connell (right) have the experience and power to dominate for Munster. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Dave Foley (centre) is a newcomer to this stage and faces a huge test against Toulouse, but BJ Botha (left) and Paul O'Connell (right) have the experience and power to dominate for Munster. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Toulon v Munster - head-to-head

Delon Armitage v Felix Jones

He may not be everyone's cup of tea, but Delon Armitage's quality as a full-back is not in question. Jones, meanwhile, may not have the attacking guile he once showed as a youngster, but his defensive qualities will be much needed.

Drew Mitchell v Keith Earls

With 102 caps between them, both right-wingers have A-list quality and Mitchell showed in scoring his try against Leinster that he only needs a sniff to strike. Earls is another whose magic feet can create something from nothing.

Mathieu Bastareaud v Casey Laulala

France centre Bastareaud is in the form of his life and one imagines Gordon D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll are still having nightmares about their encounters with the huge Parisian in recent weeks. Laulala needs his biggest performance in a Munster jersey yet.

Matt Giteau v James Downey

A major contrast in styles at inside centre where the guile of Giteau meets the raw power of Downey, whose ball-carrying and defensive qualities will be crucial. Shutting down Giteau's space will be key.

Bryan Habana v Simon Zebo

Zebo spoke of his admiration for Springbok legend Habana in midweek and now he gets to face an authentic wing great. Injury woes have disrupted Habana's season, but he's back scoring tries and will test Zebo's much-questioned defence at every opportunity.

Jonny Wilkinson v Ian Keatley

A legend on the wane up against a fly-half who has patiently waited to make his mark. Ian Keatley has never played in anything like this before and needs to stand up and lead his team, while Wilkinson's mettle is long-established.

Sebastien Tillous-Borde v Conor Murray

The world-class back in the Munster line-up, Murray needs to be at his very best for his team to survive the onslaught. Tillous-Borde may not have the caps of others in the back line, but he dominated against Leinster and must be watched.

Xavier Chiocci v Dave Kilcoyne

Both thoroughly modern looseheads with a penchant for ball carrying, Chiocci is a star on the rise whose abilities in the loose were fully on display against Leinster. Kilcoyne's work with ball in hand will be vital, while parity with Carl Hayman is essential.

Craig Burden v Damien Varley

South African Burden is one of the few uncapped members of Toulon’s armoury and, while he impressed against Leinster, there is a sense that Munster can target his throw in the absence of Bakkies Botha and Ali Williams to aim for.

Carl Hayman v BJ Botha

Established members of the front-row union both well into their 30s, both Hayman and Botha will be expected to provide the platform on which their team’s attack can be built and, against looseheads 10 years their junior, they’ll use every trick available for an edge.

Danie Rossouw v Dave Foley

A huge test for Tipperary native Foley who is |a newcomer to this stage where he faces the vastly experienced and robust Rossouw who was devastating in the quarter-final. Munster need their abrasive 25-year-old to punch above his weight.

Jocelino Suta v Paul O’Connell

Suta played well against Leinster, but there is a real sense that the Samoan is the weak link in the Toulon pack and who better than O’Connell to target that weakness and exploit it. The Ireland captain must dominate.

Juan Smith v CJ Stander

In another time, Stander would be Smith’s natural successor but the IRFU pulled off a coup by enticing the South African to Munster where he will meet a bona fide Springbok legend who is thoroughly enjoying his new lease of life after coming out of retirement.

Juan Fernandez Lobbe v Sean Dougall

Rob Penney’s biggest call came when he plumped for Dougall ahead of Tommy O’Donnell and he has a huge job on the deck where the experienced Puma Lobbe will receive assistance from Steffon Armitage, Bastareaud and Chiocci.

Steffon Armitage v James Coughlan

The younger Armitage has been the player of the tournament to date and Bernard Laporte’s decision to move him to No8 has proved a masterstroke. Coughlan’s job is to get Munster going forward, while the whole team will be needed to negate Armitage’s impact.

Toulon Bench v Munster Bench

Introducing Tommy O’Donnell with something to prove will add to the impact to Munster’s bench. The loss of Gerhard van der Heever will be felt. Toulon’s Martin Castrogiovanni, David Smith and Maxime Mermoz will all make a difference against tiring legs.

Bernard Laporte v Rob Penney

Managing a collection of ageing superstars presents its own problems, but Laporte has moulded Toulon into a real unit who work tirelessly for each other. Penney’s methods have not always been popular, but two semi-finals in two seasons speaks for itself.

Total: Toulon 136 - Munster 125

Irish Independent

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