Euro flops put house in order
Thu, 24 Jan 2013 09:48
I didn't even know we were in it
Still smarting from their shock European Cup exit, Toulouse return to domestic action on Friday intending to concentrate on a third successive Top 14 title rather than pursue a consolation European Challenge bid.
Toulouse, the four-time European Cup winners, were knocked out of the pool stages last weekend when they lost 9-8 in the snow and ice of Leicester, just the fourth time in 18 editions that the French giants have failed to make the knockout round.
Coach Guy Noves admitted that a third successive Top 14 title was such an overriding priority that playing in the second-tier European Challenge had not even figured in his plans.
"I didn't even know we were in it," said Noves. "We have to think of the championship, nothing more than that."
Toulouse go into Friday's game at home to Biarritz with a season record of 11 wins and four losses to be seven points behind leaders Toulon.
Toulon, who comfortably reached the European Cup quarter-finals, tackle rock-bottom Mont de Marsan, who have just one win all season.
Jonny Wilkinson should feature in that game but then needs to undergo a minor operation to relieve inflammation round his groin area. The 33-year-old fly-half will have a week's rest after the operation.
His English colleague Simon Shaw may not play after the lock forward injured his little toe on his left foot in last weekend's European Cup defeat to Montpellier.
Fellow lock, South African Bakkies Botha, scrum-half Sebastien Tillous-Borde and centre Geoffroy Messina are still unavailable.
Clermont, who are second in the table, three points behind Toulon, and have also made the European Cup quarter-finals, are at Perpignan, one of four French clubs to have made the Challenge Cup quarter-finals.
Clermont welcome back Thomas Domingo, Wesley Fofana and Sitiveni Sivivatu, who all missed last weekend's win over the Scarlets.
But French international scrum-half Morgan Parra is a doubt after injuring his right thigh, while Portugal's Julien Bardy and Welsh back Lee Byrne are away at international training camps.
Thursday, January 24: Bayonne v Castres
Friday, January 25: Agen v Montpellier, Bordeaux-Begles v Racing Metro, Perpignan v Clermont, Stade Francais v Grenoble, Toulon v Mont de Marsan, Toulouse v Biarritz
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