TOULON COACH BERNARD Laporte has named a 27-man squad for the Heineken Cup quarter-final clash with Leinster at Stade Mayol on Sunday.
Italian international tighthead prop Martin Castrogiovanni returns to the squad for the first time since injuring his ribs while in Six Nations action against Ireland in February.
Also among the forward selections is loosehead Alexandre Menini, who joined the club from Biarritz last month as a medical joker in place of the sidelined Andrew Sheridan and Emmanuel Felsina.
Jonny Wilkinson [thigh] and hooker Craig Burden [shoulder] have both recovered from recent injury concerns, but among those to miss out against Leinster are influential locks Bakkies Botha and Ali Williams, as well as powerhouse No. 8 Chris Masoe.
Regardless of that trio of absentees, Toulon’s squad list makes for impressive reading ahead of Sunday’s Heineken Cup clash. Laporte told Var Martin that the Top 14 side are anticipating “a match of international standard” at Stade Mayol.
“Everyone wants to play this type of game,” the former France coach continued. “We compete for this. To play Leinster, who won two Heineken Cups before us, is exciting. We haven’t always been in top form this season, but we had the aim of playing this quarter-final at home.”
Laporte will cut four players from the group in the coming days.
Toulon group (v Leinster):
Forwards: Steffon Armitage, Virgile Bruni, Craig Burden, Martin Castrogiovanni, Levan Chilachava, Xavier Chiocci, Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, Florian Fresia, Pierrick Gunther, Carl Hayman, Alexandre Menini, Konstantin Mikautadze, Jean-Charles Orioli, Danie Rossouw, Juanne Smith, Jocelino Suta.
Backs: Delon Armitage, Mathieu Bastareaud, Michael Claassens, Matt Giteau, Bryan Habana, Maxime Mermoz, Frédéric Michalak, Drew Mitchell, David Smith, Sébastien Tillous-Borde, Jonny Wilkinson.