Toulon coach Fabien Galthie is hopeful that French captain Guilhem Guirado will be fit for Saturday’s Champions Cup showdown against Munster at Thomond Park.

The 31-year-old hooker suffered a knee injury leading France to a 22-16 win over England in the Six Nations earlier this month, which ruled him out of their final game against Wales.

Guirado sat out Toulon’s 49-0 demolition of reigning Top14 champions Clermont Auvergne on Sunday, but is one of several players set to be available for the trip to Limerick.

Two experienced Springboks, full-back JP Pietersen and lock Juandre Kruger, are also poised to return, while All Black Ma’a Nonu, rested for the seven-try rout of Clermont, also adds to the wealth of riches available to Galthie.

However, one of their most experienced stars, former Argentina captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, has warned that Toulon will need to produce a special performance if they are to triumph at Thomond Park.

The 36-year-old retired Puma has played there with Sale Sharks and Toulon and while he acknowledges a strong squad are on a high after the trouncing of the Top14 champions, he issued a note of caution.

“It’s going to be very, very tough. Every experience I had in Munster and Thomond Park it has always been very tough and it won’t be any different this time.

We only have a short week to prepare. The win over Clermont was a good way to prepare, but we need to really focus during the week, because there is not much time and we know we will need to be at our best to beat them. It’s a massive game coming up and I have enough experience of playing Munster to know what to expect.

Fernandez Lobbe may miss the trip to Thomond Park after picking up a thumb injury in Sunday’s remarkable win.

“It’s not looking good for me, I will know after the scan where I stand but even if I’m not going to Thomond Park I will tell our players what to expect,” said Fernandez Lobbe. “Many of them have played Munster before, but it will be first time for others and we need to prepare.

“It’s a huge game. There is so much at stake,” said Fernandez Lobbe who was a key figure in Toulon’s three-in-a-row Champions Cup success from 2013-15.

French captain Guilhem Guirado suffered a knee injury in France’s defeat of England in the Six Nations.
French captain Guilhem Guirado suffered a knee injury in France’s defeat of England in the Six Nations.

Sky Sports will screen the match and Sky pundit Stuart Barnes is even more convinced there is a thriller in store, having watched Toulon’s Sunday exhibition.

“Whether Munster would have derived much pleasure from watching Toulon’s 49-0 victory over Clermont Auvergne is debatable,” Barnes wrote, in his Skysports.com column. “I know that Clermont have endured a dreadful season on the domestic front, and are fully focused on nothing but the Champions Cup, but still, this was impressive stuff from the three-time European champions.

Even before the weekend’s action kicked off, I had Munster versus Toulon down as a thriller. By tea-time Sunday night, I was even more convinced. Munster remain the bookmakers’ favourites, as they should with their home record. But if they are off their game, as they were for 20 or 30 minutes Saturday, there may be no way back. Toulon went very close to winning in Llanelli in round six. Don’t bet against another nail-biter Saturday.

Barnes noted Munster’s sluggish opening against Scarlets last weekend, though he was impressed with how Munster responded and gradually took a grip of the contest.

“The champions played with width and ambition for the first 20 minutes. Munster were hanging on at 0-7. Slowly but surely they ground their way back into the game. They scrummaged the visitors into the dirt. From this position of dominance they were able to take control of the game’s tempo and territory. By full-time they were in complete control.”


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