Toulouse not tak­ing Greno­ble lightly

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

PARIS: Toulouse are wary of a back­lash from a rested Greno­ble as they look to main­tain their free-scor­ing Euro­pean form when re­turn­ing to do­mes­tic Top 14 duty tonight.

Back-to-back thump­ing vic­to­ries (36-6 and 54-15) over hap­less Ital­ians Ze­bre in the Euro­pean Cham­pi­ons Cup, in which they ran in 13 tries, has lifted the strug­gling giants’ spir­its ahead of the re­turn to do­mes­tic duty.

Cur­rently sit­ting sev­enth and out­side the end-of-sea­son play-off places, Toulouse know a vic­tory against Greno­ble is cru­cial.

“We’ve got a pos­i­tive dy­namic. The play­ers are start­ing to play well to­gether and we hope to con­tinue in that vein,” said Toulouse’s for­wards coach Wil­liam Ser­vat. But he knows Greno­ble, who have by far the worst de­fence in the league, will be fired up hav­ing rested most of their first team in re­cent Euro­pean Chal­lenge Cup ac­tion, in­clud­ing last week’s hu­mil­i­at­ing 71-3 de­feat to Ospreys, just seven days af­ter los­ing at home to the Welsh re­gion 59-7.

“They chose to man­age their squad. They want to sur­vive in the Top 14 and we’re ex­pect­ing a phys­i­cal bat­tle,” added Ser­vat. “They’re short of con­fi­dence but when they find their game, they can be for­mi­da­ble.”

The record four-time Euro­pean and 19-time French cham­pi­ons have fallen on leaner times since their hey­day of the 1990s and 2000s.

They last won the Euro­pean ti­tle in 2010 and have not lifted the Top 14 crown since 2012. Last year they were bat­tling just to fin­ish in the top six and reach the play-offs.

The big game of the week sees sec­ond-placed Mont­pel­lier host mega-rich Toulon to­mor­row night in an en­counter ren­dered all the more im­por­tant by each side’s Euro­pean strug­gles.

Toulon’s shock 22-21 re­verse against Scar­lets on Sun­day means their knock­out stage hopes are hang­ing by a thread and the three-time cham­pi­ons will al­most cer­tainly have to win away to ti­tle-hold­ers Sara­cens next month to stand any chance of pro­gress­ing.

Mont­pel­lier like­wise lost for a sec­ond time in four matches away to Cas­tres 2923 and face an up­hill bat­tle to get through a group in which three-time cham­pi­ons Le­in­ster are fly­ing.

Mont­pel­lier will have South African No.8 Pierre Spies back but France in­ter­na­tional week Ben­jamin Fall is out with a leg in­jury. Toulon sit fourth in a con­gested top half in which only five points sep­a­rate Mont­pel­lier and eighth-placed Rac­ing 92, the reign­ing cham­pi­ons.

Rac­ing’s re­cent league improvement they have lost only one of their last six-is in stark con­trast to their poor Euro­pean form. Three straight Pool 1 de­feats means last sea­son’s fi­nal­ists are al­ready out of the Cham­pi­ons Cup. Club pres­i­dent Jacky Loren­zetti called on his play­ers to show hu­mil­ity to get their form back. “We need to re­dis­cover our men­tal strength,” he said.

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