Giteau and Mitchell back for Toulon

by AFP

Veteran Australian playmaker Matt Giteau will line up for Toulon in Saturday's heavyweight Top 14 duel against Toulouse as the French season builds towards a thrilling climax.

Giteau underwent a groin operation in January, and only made his return to action in the 19-16 European Cup quarter-final defeat by Racing 92.

The 33-year-old limped off during that game after an hour and missed last week's Top 14 win at Pau.

"I feel fine, I have done a lot of running and physical work," Giteau said.

"This will be a tough match against Toulouse but I am ready."

Compatriot Drew Mitchell is also set to return for Toulon although South African winger Bryan Habana remains sidelined from a powerful starting line-up which boasts Maxime Mermoz and Ma'a Nonu in midfield.

In a further boost to the deposed European champions, coach Bernard Laporte said Thursday that Welsh international star Leigh Halfpenny, who hasn't played all season after having two knee operations, could feature in the closing weeks of the campaign.

There are still five regular season games to play before the six-team play-offs get underway.

Toulon are currently in third spot on 67 points, eight behind leaders Clermont, but just one back from Montpellier in second spot.

Toulon are virtually guaranteed a place in the play-offs but the same cannot be said for 19-time French champions Toulouse.

They are in fifth place on 57 points, 10 behind Toulon and seven back from Racing 92.

Bordeaux and Castres -- in sixth and seventh at the start of the weekend — both have 53 points.

Toulouse remain a club in transition having seen long-time coach Guy Noves depart for the French national team in 2015 after 22 years at the helm.

"That was the end of a cycle. Now we are in the process of reconstruction but it can't be achieved in a day," said president Jean-Rene Bouscatel ahead of Saturday's game, to be played in Nice.