Heineken Cup final: Toulon v Saracens preview

By Ben Hampshire | @BH92.   Last Updated: 24/05/14 11:17am

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Toulon will bid to become only the third side to defend the Heineken Cup when they take on Saracens at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, with both sides chasing a remarkable domestic and European double.

The sides will lock horns in south Wales with the biggest prize in European rugby at stake, before returning to domestic action for Top 14 and Premiership finals respectively.

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Of course, Toulon and Saracens have met before, at the semi-final stage last term, when seven penalties and a drop-goal from Jonny Wilkinson's boot sent the French side into the final with a 24-12 victory at Twickenham.

As well as being the last Heineken Cup final before Europe's premier competition becomes the Champions Cup next season, Saturday's final will be awash with emotion as both captains make their penultimate appearances.

End of an era

Should Toulon prevail, former England fly-half Wilkinson will become only the fourth captain to lift the European trophy twice, while Steve Borthwick aims to top the Challenge Cup medal he picked up with Bath in 2008.

Wilkinson will lead Toulon from his familiar fly-half and forms a formidable axis with Sebastien Tillous-Borde, who has made five offloads in his six appearances so far.

Mathieu Bastareuad has beaten 20 defenders this season, second only to Alex Goode, and joins Matt Giteau in midfield, while winger Drew Mitchell lines up opposite Springbok Bryan Habana, with Delon Armitage taking the No 15 jersey.

Hooker Craig Burden is flanked by Carl Hayman and Xavier Chiocci, who has dotted down twice this term, in the front row, while Bakkies Botha and Danie Rossouw forge an all-Springbok second row.

Toulon No 8 Steffon Armitage has made 17 turnovers in eight matches and takes his place in the starting XV, alongside Juan Smith and Juan Fernandez Lobbe.

Borthwick fit

Borthwick has been passed fit to lead Saracens in their first European final from lock alongside Alistair Hargreaves, who was called in as last-minute replacement for Mouritz Botha in last weekend's Premiership semi-final.

Mako Vunipola gets the nod at loosehead alongside hooker Schalk Brits, who has made 83 carries in the tournament to date, and former England prop Matt Stevens completes the front row.

Elsewhere in the pack, Jacques Burger starts at openside flanker after his impressive 27 tackles against Clermont in the semi-final, with Scotland captain Kelly Brown opposite and England back-row Billy Vunipola, the competition's top tackler, starts at No 8.

Scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth is the only change to the side which triumphed against Harlequins and he partners England outside-half Owen Farrell, whilst in midfield, Brad Barritt and Marcelo Bosch start in the centres.

Alex Goode starts at full-back, with Chris Ashton - who has scored a European record 11 tries so far this season - and David Strettle occupying the wing berths.

Toulon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Mitchell, 13 Bastareaud, 12 Giteau, 11 Habana, 10 Wilkinson (capt), 9 Tillous-Borde; 1 Chiocci, 2 Burden, 3 Hayman, 4 Botha, 5 Rossouw, 6 Smith, 7 Fernandez Lobbe, 8 Steffon Armitage

Replacements: 16 Orioli, 17 Menini, 18 Castrogiovanni, 19 Williams, 20 Bruni, 21 Mermoz, 22 Claassens, 23 Suta

Saracens: 15 Goode, 14 Ashton, 13 Bosch, 12 Barritt, 11 Strettle, 10 Farrell, 9 Wigglesworth; 1 Mako Vunipola, 2 Brits, 3 Stevens, 4 Borthwick (capt), 5 Hargreaves, 6 Brown, 7 Burger, 8 Billy Vunipola

Replacements: 16 George, 17 Barrington, 18 Johnston, 19 Botha, 20 Wray, 21 De Kock, 22 Hodgson, 23 Wyles

Watch Toulon take on Saracens in the Heineken Cup final live on Sky Sports 2HD from 4pm

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