A bootiful swan song for Wilko?
This year’s decider is a repeat of last year’s semi-final clash when Jonny Wilkinson’s boot proved the difference, scoring all of Toulon’s points in a 24-12 victory. Saracens, too, are led by a former England captain in Steve Borthwick and with both retiring at the end of the season they will be keen to sign-off on a high.
Saracens appear to have learnt from past mistakes and will certainly not be overawed as they were last year, however they must overcome the psychological scars from that home defeat to Toulon.
Sarries will rely heavily on their defensive strength, however they also know where the try-line is – as evidenced by the six five-pointers they scored in their 46-6 thrashing of Clermont in the semi-final. In addition winger Chris Ashton’s 11 tries in this year’s Heineken Cup is a tournament record.
Of course Toulon can mix it up anyway they please with owner Mourad Boudjellal’s millions assembling a side as dazzling in the backline as it is grizzled in the forwards. However the suspicion is defence – or more crucially discipline in defence, bearing in mind how severely kickable penalties are likely to be punished – could well decide this contest.
Even penalties committed ‘out of harm’s way’ could be punished by Delon Armitage’s boot, which has knocked over scores from 60 yards this season.
Toulon will look to use their power-game to draw penalties through a constant barrage of body blows from big runners such as Mathieu Bastereaud and Steffon Armitage. But Sarries’ ‘Wolf Pack’, led by Jacques Burger, Shalk Brits and Brad Barritt look equipped to deal with such on onslaught.
Some fascinating individual duals await, not least the out-half battle between the current England incumbent Owen Farrell and Wilkinson. After touring with the Lions and with a further season under his belt Farrell is a more complete player since last they met. He may be the apprentice but he looks poised to emulate the master supreme.
Elsewhere Sarries’ flanker Burger will look to build on his stunning defensive performance against Clermont. Facing him is snaffler-in-chief Steffon Armitage who leads the tournament stats with a mighty 17 turnovers. Their battle at the breakdown could be pivotal.
Both sides are in great form and eyeing historic doubles, with Saracens and Toulon booking their spots in the Premiership and Top 14 finals respectively last weekend.
With Saracens doing so much to give English rugby a shot in the arm how ironic it would be if they were undone by a French team for whom two Englishmen – Wilkinson and Steffon Armitage – have been the star performers. There won’t be much in it and it could come down to a kicking contest. In that case Toulon look the most likely at 5/6 (-2.5) with Wilkinson steering them to back-to-back titles.
The match kicks off at 5.00pm on Saturday evening in Cardiff’s Millenium Stadium.
As ever, you can have a bet on RC Toulon v Saracens in the Heineken Cup Final on our main rugby betting pages now at https://www.betbright.com/rugby/51632997/36003616/42376116/111520405