Take Toulon to sink Sharks

  • By: Reece Killworth
  • Last Updated: December 6 2012, 21:44 GMT

Our tipster Reece Killworth takes Toulon to record a comfortable Heineken Cup victory over Sale Sharks this weekend.

Toulon celebrations are on the cards in Salford

Sale Sharks v Toulon

John Mitchell has barely got his feet under the table at Sale Sharks but already the size of the task he faces will be patently obvious to him.

The former All Blacks head coach touched down in Manchester in time to take in the Sharks' Premiership game against Northampton last Friday night.

And while he may have been pleased with what he saw in the second half of the 27-16 defeat, what went before will have been a real concern for the Kiwi.

He admitted as much when he faced reporters after the game, saying: "The forwards had a torrid time tonight. We're still very immature as a side and we get frustrated easily, so we've got to learn to become more patient."

A week previously, the Sharks had slumped to a 29-3 defeat at Gloucester during which they conceded 10 penalties at scrumtime.

And though Steve Diamond queried the referee's interpretation after that match, what is evident is that Sale are struggling to compete up front.

With that in mind, feast your eyes on this list: Carl Hayman, Chris Masoe, Bakkies Botha, Steffon Armitage and former Sharks Andrew Sheridan and Juan-Martin Fernandez Lobbe.

That's just six of the power-packed 14 forwards Toulon have travelled with.

The names in their backline are equally impressive. To take six again how about Jonny Wilkinson, Frederic Michalak, Mathieu Bastareaud, Matt Giteau, Maxime Mermoz and Rudi Wulf?

Quite some proposition isn't it?

Of course, with such a galaxy of stars, the concern is how they bond as a team. But the evidence suggests pretty well.

They've won both of their opening two Heineken Cup matches and sit proudly at the top the French Top 14 with just two defeats on their ledger.

The Sharks, meanwhile, are bringing up the rear in the Premiership with just a single victory from their 10 matches, against their fellow strugglers London Irish, and have an average losing margin of 14.2 points.

They've played all of the likely top-four finishers in Northampton, Leicester, Harlequins and Saracens (teams more of the calibre of Toulon) - losing all four by an average margin of 13.25.

And it'd surely make more sense for them to focus on the Premiership games that follow against Wasps and Worcester, matches that will define their future.

Indeed young hooker Tommy Taylor has pretty much admitted that's the case.

Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, he said: "I think for us the Wasps and Worcester league games at the end of this month are now massive.

"The two games against Toulon are going to massively test us as we are playing against some of the best players in the world.

"But it also gives us a chance to work with John on some new ideas in training and to test them out ahead of the Wasps and Worcester games as that is where our main focus has to be."

So while I've no doubt Sale will be taking this one seriously, there's enough reason to believe we're looking at a comfortable away victory here.

And with Mitchell saying there will be "casualties" - the implication being some senior players could be for the chop as early as this weekend - I'll take Toulon -9 now rather than waiting for the teams to be named as there's got to be every chance that'll be a couple of points bigger at kick-off.

  • Preview posted at 2135 GMT on 06/12/2012.