English rugby legend Jonny Wilkinson is hoping to win France's Top 14 league on Saturday at the Stade de France, when he leads Toulon – who have failed to take the title home since 1989 – into battle with formidable rivals, Toulouse.
AFP - England star Jonny Wilkinson will aim to lead Toulon to their first French league title since 1992 in Saturday’s Top 14 final against Toulouse at the Stade de France.
For Wilkinson - who had been off colour with his kicking in recent matches - it is a chance to add yet another memorable moment to his 2003 World Cup final heroics, when his drop goal in the last minute of extra-time delivered the trophy to England.
“I am astonished to be going back to the Stade de France for the final, it is somewhere I haven’t been for a while!” joked the 33-year-old, who retired from international rugby after last year’s World Cup.
“It’s going to be an extraordinary experience. I can’t wait for it,” he added.
The ex-England fly-half was instrumental in his side’s nail-biting 15-12 victory over Clermont in the semi-final, kicking five penalties to account for all of Toulon’s points.
Toulon, who have won the French championship three times in 1931, 1987 and 1989, will be up against a Toulouse side, captained by French flanker and national team captain Thierry Dusautoir, that is hunting for an unrivalled 19th title.
Dusautoir, the 2011 International Rugby Board’s Player of the Year, will be ably assisted by inside centre Luke McAlister as well as several French internationals such as Vincent Clerc, Clement Poitrenaud and Yoann Maestri, but their coach Guy Noves insisted there was “no favourite” ahead of Saturday’s showpiece.
“We will need to prepare differently for this match against Toulon. We will need to adapt strategically. We expect a complicated match. For me, there is no favourite,” Noves said.
While it may be a battle for French supremacy there is an interesting England versus France sub-plot given that Toulon are considerably bolstered by three Englishmen in their ranks.
Aside from Wilkinson, the club backed by comic book billionaire Mourad Boudjellal, also features Top 14 player of the season Steffon Armitage and 38-year-old veteran lock Simon Shaw.
The teams split their two meetings this season with Toulouse easily winning the first encounter 33-12 at the Stade Ernest Wallon in December. Toulon then gained their revenge with a close-fought 25-22 victory at the Stade Mayol on May 5.
“Toulouse have a very experienced and powerful set of players and it will be another big challenge,” explained Wilkinson.
“Now we are in the final and we have to do everything we can to get the result that we want.
"Getting to the final is good, but if we win it, it would be phenomenal," added Wilkinson, who also won the English Premiership title with Newcastle Falcons in 1998.
Date created : 2012-06-08