Heineken Cup final: Toulon v Saracens preview
By Ben Hampshire | @BH92. Last Updated: 24/05/14 11:17am
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.
A sporting spectacular awaits later this month - from 22nd to 25th May Sky Sports will show live coverage of the BMW PGA Championship, the Monaco Grand Prix, the UEFA Champions League Final, the Heineken Cup Final, the Championship Play-Off Final, England v Sri Lanka ODI cricket and much more. Don't miss the ultimate weekend live only on Sky Sports, your home of live sport. Upgrade in minutes or buy a NOW TV Sky Sports Day Pass.
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 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
Heineken Cup final 2013/14
Steffon Armitage named ERC European Player of the Year on Monday just days after helping Toulon win the Heineken Cup.
England should make exception to overseas-based player policy for Steffon Armitage, says team-mate Bryan Habana.
Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe does not feel there is any point trying to get Jonny Wilkinson to play on.
- Jonny: Giteau key to victory
- McCall: Saracens will respond
- Wilkinson 'so proud'
- Jonny inspires Toulon triumph
- Wilkinson eyes dream finale
- Farrell learned Toulon lesson
- Borthwick fit to lead Saracens
- McCall: Sarries must be smart
- Wilkinson leads Euro shortlist
- Stopping Toulon
- Barritt expects tight battle
- Hayman hopes for classic final
- Stevens hails Wilkinson force
- Fitness battle for Borthwick
- Wilkinson v Farrell
- Wilko: Farrell is the future
- Au revoir Jonny!
- Laporte ban lifted for final