TOULON COACH BERNARD Laporte has been forced to omit out-half Jonny Wilkinson from his team to face Toulouse in a crucial Top 14 clash tomorrow evening [KO 7.45pm Irish time].
The iconic Englishman, who will retire from playing at the end of the season, sustained a leg injury in training this week, but the club are hopeful that it will not rule him out of the clash with Leinster in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals on the 6th of April.
It appears to be the case that Laporte is unwilling to risk Wilkinson worsening the injury against Toulouse, meaning Frédéric Michalak starts in the number 10 shirt for the second weekend in-a-row, outside scrum-half Sébastien Tillous-Borde.
Matt Giteau, a crucial attacking presence for Toulon, has been left on the bench with French international pairing Maxime Mermoz and Mathieu Bastareaud starting in midfield.
Bryan Habana is also amongst the replacements, included in RCT’s match day 23 for the first time since the 7th of December, 2013, when he tore a thigh muscle. If the South African wing is used as a substitute, it will be just his fifth appearance for the club since joining at the start of the season.
Another man returning from a recent injury is Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe [calf], who captains the team from the back row.
Still on the treatment table just over a week out from the Leinster clash are Martin Castrogiovanni [ribs], Bakkies Botha [fractured his forearm in January], Andrew Sheridan [neck], Chris Masoe [bruised knee] and Ali Williams [biceps].
Meanwhile, Toulouse have named a largely unsurprising starting team for the encounter at the Stade Vélodrome [Toulon decided to move their home fixture to Marseille], with Gaël Fickou, Maxime Médard and Yoann Maestri rested.
Yannick Nyanga [groin] and Yann David [hamstring] both come into the starting team having recovered from their recent injury issues, but out-half Luke McAlister [back] is left out in the expectation that he will recover in time to face Munster on the 5th of April in the Heineken Cup.
Head coach Guy Novès has named Yoann Huget to start, after the France wing was left out of the squad for last weekend’s 27-27 draw with Stade Français. Powerful centre Florian Fritz is also back in the team, having recovered from the arm injury he picked up in a motorcycle accident in December.
Captain Thierry Dusuatoir [biceps] and South African hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle [ACL] remain out of action for the four-time Heineken Cup champions.
Munster backs coach Simon Mannix was spotted in the crowd in Paris last weekend as Toulouse took on Stade Français, and the province – like Leinster – will be keeping a close eye on proceedings in Marseille tomorrow night too.