Take Toulon to triumph

  • By: David Gee
  • Last Updated: May 18 2013, 17:00 BST

David Gee fancies Toulon to stay within the handicap when they take on Clermont in the Heineken Cup final.

Wilkinson: Will be key to Toulon's chances
Wilkinson: Will be key to Toulon's chances

There will be a new name on the Heineken Cup following Saturday's final at Twickenham as neither Clermont nor Toulon have lifted the trophy before.

This year's final is the fourth all-French affair since the inception of the tournament back in 1995 and the cream has certainly risen to the top as Clermont and Toulon have been carrying all before them in the French Top 14 this season and comfortably look the best two sides in Europe.

If you'd taken the advice of Reece Kilworth in his outright Betting Zone preview, you'll be sitting pretty as he tipped up Toulon each-way at 7/1. You may already have hedged your bet following their convincing semi-final victory against Saracens but if you haven't, there are several reasons for letting your bet run - even at this point.

It's difficult to know where to start or how to split these two sides. On paper, Clermont just about shade it but Toulon have so many experienced players in their ranks that it would be no surprise to see them get one over on their rivals.

Both sides have some incredible stats on the attacking front but this doesn't mean that we will necessarily see plenty of points. Will they cancel each other out up front? Certainly it would be no surprise to see Toulon start this final in a similar vein to their performance in the semis, where they soaked up plenty of pressure from Saracens before punishing their mistakes.

Will Bernard Laporte's men be able to pull off the same tactics against Clermont though? In their two Top 14 games so far this season, they've not been able to do so. Brock James' last-gasp penalty gave Clermont a home victory over Toulon while the return leg at the Stade Mayol ended up in stalemate so there's every reason for thinking that this game will be as tight as they come.

The weather will have a big part to play in this game but there have been mixed forecasts ahead of this game with some saying there will be plenty of rain and others claiming the rain will hold off until after the match.

If the rain does arrive, then the draw would be a big runner at 20/1. As we've already seen this season, these two sides couldn't be more evenly matched and save for James' last-minute penalty, their two encounters would have ended in stalemate.

The last Heineken Cup final to go the distance came in another all-French affair in 2005 when Toulouse needed extra-time to beat Stade Francais. Another three finals in the last five years have been won by three points or fewer so this should give you some idea as to how nervy these matches can be.

Toulon have named the same matchday 22 that beat Saracens in the semi-finals with Danie Rossouw passed fit to start in the back row and Frederic Michalak on the bench. Jonny Wilkinson will again be crucial to their chances and his experience in this sort of arena should never be underestimated.

Clermont give Gerhard Vosloo a start ahead of Julien Bardy at openside flanker, while Aurélien Rougerie will start at outside centre despite doubts over his fitness earlier in the week.

On balance, all the above evidence points to Clermont being pretty poor value at around 4/7 to win in 80 minutes. If pushed, they are the most likely winners but the fact that you can back Toulon getting four points from their rivals means they are too short both on the outright and the handicap market.

Unless one of these sides implodes, it's very difficult to see either running away with it and hence Toulon have to be the call getting four points from Clermont at even money with BetVictor.

There has to be some value in backing the draw as well. Although the most likely outcome is a penalty or drop-goal separating these two sides in the last five minutes, it just wouldn't come as a surprise to see extra-time come into the equation. It's a speculative bet but it isn't one without substance.

  • Preview posted at 1540 BST on 17/05/2013.