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Clermont v Toulon: 3 key battles in winning your 1st Heineken Cup
The French rivals are vying to become their country’s third winner of the European Cup.

Nathan Hines v Bakkies Botha

For long, long spells, this game is going to be an arm wrestle. Small gains within the deep, dank reaches of the pack will hold the key to success.

Hines against Botha is set to be a Titanic tussle. We could have easily slotted Jamie Cudmore or Nick Kennedy in here, but in the Springbok and Aussie-Scot there is the promise of a mouthwatering slug-fest that will determine whether their team plays on the front foot or the back.

Hines will hold the wishes of the neutrals in the crowd, but Botha remains one of the most athletic and effective locks in the world.

Niall Carson/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Brock James v Jonny Wilkinson

Old JW made English rugby pundits weak at the knees with his classic metronome impersonation back in his natural habitat of Twickenham in the semi-final.

In the end, it was his kicking that proved the difference between two sides intent in nullifying one another’s pack.

Whereas, Wilkinson v Farrell was a clash of sleet and snow, Brock James will bring a touch of colour to today’s proceedings. James will also have the benefit of playing in tandem with Morgan Parra who can shoulder much of the match-control responsibility (not to mention goal-kicking) allowing James to make the world forget about his infamous outing in Dublin.

Wesley Fofana v Matt Giteau

With Toulon steered by a very conventional half-back pairing, so much of the back-line action comes down to Matt Giteau. The Australian has proven he can mix it with the best 12s these days – crashing into contact as well weaving patterns away from it – and for those of us with short attention spans or a love for the shinier things in life,  this will be the eye-catching duel of the day.

Up against the man who threatened to be the most talented Australian of a generation, is the best inside centre in the world today. Fofana’s uncanny ability to find and glide through space is what makes Clermont the neutral’s favourite today. But he will also have to hit Giteau hard and fast before his bulky partner Bastareaud can build up a head of steam.

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