Heineken Cup Pool 2: Toulon v Cardiff Blues match preview
Last Updated: 11/01/14 3:25pm
Cardiff Blues travel to face Toulon on Saturday knowing that a victory in France would see them take over at the top of Pool 2.
After an opening day defeat at Exeter, the Blues have won three straight games to sit second in the standings behind the French outfit with two rounds of games remaining.
However, while Cardiff head into the showdown on the back of an encouraging PRO12 win against the Dragons last time out, Toulon arrive in turmoil following a home defeat to Grenoble that has called into question the future of head coach Bernard Laporte.
The visitors will have to make do without the services of Rhys Patchell at the Allianz Riviera in Nice with the young fly-half having been ruled out for four months with a knee injury.
Gareth Davies, whose late try secured victory over the Frenchmen in week two, replaces Patchell, while loosehead prop Gethin Jenkins returns to captain the Welsh region in what will be his first appearance since October.
In total, Blues director of rugby Phil Davies makes five changes to the side that beat the Dragons, with Chris Dicomidis, Chris Czekaj and Gavin Evans also getting the nod.
Davies said: "Toulon will be smarting from last week's defeat in the league and they won't have been happy they lost the game to us in Cardiff earlier in the season. It's a massive challenge and they will be extremely motivated. But it is one we are ready for.
Toulon have opted to drop English full-back Delon Armitage to the bench for the clash in Nice with Drew Mitchell selected in his stead.
Fellow Australian Matt Giteau returns at inside centre in place of Maxime Mermoz, partnering Mathieu Bastareaud in the midfield, whilst in the pack Joe van Niekerk and Craig Burden start at flank and hooker respectively.
Toulon: 15 Mitchell, 14 Wulf, 13 Bastareaud, 12 Giteau, 11 Smith, 10 Wilkinson (capt), 9 Tillous-Borde; 1 Sheridan, 2 Burden, 3 Hayman, 4 Botha, 5 Suta, 6 Smith, 7 Van Niekerk, 8 Armitage.
Replacements: 16 Orioli, 17 Fresia, 18 Castrogiovanni, 19 Gunther, 20 Armitage, 21 Mermoz, 22 Michalak, 23 Mikautadze.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Halfpenny, 14 Cuthbert, 13 Smith, 12 Evans, 11 Czekaj, 10 Davies, 9 Williams; 1 Jenkins (capt), 2 Breeze, 3 Bourrust, 4 Dicomidis, 5 Paulo, 6 Cook, 7 Navidi, 8 Copeland.
Replacements: 16 Williams, 17 Hobbs, 18 Andrews, 19 Down, 20 Jenkins, 21 Jones, 22 Hewitt, 23 Fish.
Watch Toulon v Cardiff on Sky Sports HD2 from 15.30 on Saturday