Toulouse & Toulon face tough Top14 Semi-finals

Eighteen-time French Top 14 Rugby champions Toulouse face a tough home semi-final against Castres in their bid to reach the Top 14 finals against the winners of Clermont v Toulon.


Toulouse host the Chris Masoe-led Castres on home soil, with the former All Black enforcer stating: “We can make history.”


It has been 11 years since Castres lost 32-21 to Toulouse in their last semi-final showing, and it was way back in 1995 that the club made the final, losing 31-16 to no less than Toulouse.


“Toulouse have dominated rugby for 20 years. They’ve won the European Cup four times,” said No 8 and captain Masoe, who will sign a three-year deal with Toulon should Castres lose.


“However, Castres have not pinched someone’s spot. Outsiders, yes. Unlikely invitees, no.


“We’re no longer the surprise invitee as we’ve heard before.”


Luckily for Castres, Masoe will be joined in the pack by Samoan Joe Tekori, who escaped with a 10-day suspended suspension for foul play in the 31-15 play-off victory over Montpellier.


On Sunday, big spenders Clermont play Toulon and the latter’s president, Mourad Boudjellal, was left in no doubt over his club’s chances.


“We have no chance of winning it,” the comic magazine magnate said.


“A victory would more than an exploit.


“Toulon is far from being favourite while Clermont have shone all season. Come Sunday, we have nothing to lose.


“No matter what you say, Clermont are in a different economic league than us.”


Australian centre Matt Giteau, who plays at first centre outside World Cup-winning England outside-half Jonny Wilkinson, added: “The thought of a title will push us.”


Clermont fly-half David Skrela is fit to play after recovering from a thigh injury while Australian-born Scotland lock Nathan Hines (ribs) and France winger Julien Malzieu (calf) are both in line to make the match-day squad, although flanker Julien Bonnaire (knee) seems unlikely.


And scrum-half Morgan Parra warned that Toulon would be a hardy opponent.


“We fear this Toulon side, they’re an opponent which is really tough to beat,” said the France international and goal-kicker supreme.


“We already played them in 2010 at this stage of the competition – it brings back some memories, even if the context is different today.


“But Toulon are an aggressive team in contact, very strong on the deck and up front. They also rely a lot on their stand-out players like Giteau, Wilkinson and Bakkies Botha.


“Players like that are masters of playing in finals. They’ll be ready for this type of game.”


Semi-finals


Saturday


Toulouse v Castres (1845 GMT)


Sunday


Clermont v Toulon (1430 GMT)

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