Wallabies Abroad: Giteau to weave magic from bench

by AFP

Wallaby great Matt Giteau will start from the bench when Toulon takes on Clermont in the final of the French Top 14 competition in Paris on Saturday.

Giteau is one of six Aussies who will play a role in the match with Drew Mitchell, James O'Connor, Liam Gill all suiting up for Toulon and Sitatleki Timani and John Ulugia playing for Clermont.

Mitchell will bring down the curtain on his career by playing on the left wing, O'Connor will wear the No. 15 jersey, while Liam Gill has been selected at openside flanker for Toulon.

Former Wallabies lock Timani will start in the second row for Clermont while former Waratahs and Brumbies hooker Ulugia will come off the bench.

Former New Zealand international Ma'a Nonu also returns for Toulon at inside centre, but there was no spot for former Springbok flyer Bryan Habana in the matchday 23.

Nonu missed the semi-final for personal reasons but has taken his usual role in the No.12 jersey.

Youngster Anthony Belleau retained his place at flyhalf following his last gasp drop goal gave Toulon victory in Marseille last weekend.

It means France No.10 Francois Trinh-Duc has to be content with a place on the bench as he returns from injury.

Toulon's starting XV includes nine southern hemisphere players and just six Frenchmen.

For Clermont, former Wallabies lock Sitaleki Timani comes in for the injured Sebastien Vahaamahina in the only change from their semi-final win over reigning champions Racing 92.

 Although Clermont are slight favourites, Toulon come into this match in great form, having won six games in a row since Englishman Richard Cockerill took over from his countryman Mike Ford in April.

And that run has left Toulon feeling confident.

"We're more united because, on top of that, we had an end to the season where we couldn't afford any slip-ups," said Matthew Bastareaud.

Although Toulon are slight underdogs, they have a strong record against Clermont in finals, beating the Jaunards in the 2013 and 2015 European Champions Cup title deciders.



Clermont: Nick Abendanon; David Strettle; Damian Penaud, Remi Lamerat, Alivereti Raka; Camille Lopez, Morgan Parra; Fritz Lee, Judicael Cancoriet, Damien Chouly (capt); Sitaleki Timani, Arthur Iturria; Davit Zirakashvili, Benjamin Kayser, Raphael Chaume. Replacements: John Ulugia, Etienne Falgoux, Paul Jedrasiak, Peceli Yato, Ludovic Radosavljevic, Patricio Fernandez, Aurelien Rougerie, Aaron Jarvis

Toulon: James O'Connor; Josua Tuisova, Mathieu Bastareaud, Ma'a Nonu, Drew Mitchell; Anthony Belleau, Sebastien Tillous-Borde; Duane Vermeulen, Liam Gill, Juanne Smith; Romain Taofifenua, Juandre Kruger; Marcel Van der Merwe, Guilhem Guirado, Laurent Delboulbes. Replacements: Anthony Etrillard, Xavier Chiocci, Mamuka Gorgodze, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, Francois Trinh-Duc, Matt Giteau, Eric Escande, Levan Chilachava