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‘Toulon game like Barcelona coming to Manchester’

Toulon and Barcelona

Silverware and star-studded names – can you see the similarities between Toulon and Barcelona?

Sale Sharks boss Steve Diamond has compared the visit of Toulon in the European Champions Cup to “a bit like Barcelona coming to Manchester”.

The French giants will be in England on European Champions Cup duty on Friday, two weeks before Manchester City host Barca in football’s Champions League.

“Toulon are the biggest spending team in the world,” Diamond said.

“They’re the most successful side over the last five years and we’re fortunate enough to have them in the group.”

Toulon have won the European Champions Cup in three of the past four seasons, and in recent times have boasted World Cup winners such as Jonny Wilkinson and Sonny Bill Williams in their squad.

“You can see how prominent that is by the size of the crowd – there’s 8,000 tickets sold and the Manchester public come out to watch the big teams,” added director of rugby Diamond. “There’s no bigger than Toulon.”

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The Sharks were beaten at Scarlets in their opening pool match, but much more surprising was Toulon’s home defeat by Saracens.

“Toulon have everything to do,” said Diamond. “They’ve got to come to Manchester on a wet, windy night to beat us and get a bonus point – so the pressure’s on them.”

Sale have been a mid-table Premiership team in recent years, but Diamond suggests they could soon be a force to be reckoned with.

“All our young English lads are signed for three to four years, and we see this season as a bit of a transition,” he said.

“We’re recruiting three, four or five world-class players over the next three months to come in next season, and we’ve got to make sure we qualify [for the European Champions Cup] again.

“The recruitment drive is made a lot easier when you’re playing in this competition, because all coaches and players want to play in the best competition in the world.”

Team news

Diamond makes five changes to the side which lost 28-11 to Scarlets, with Mark Jennings and Magnus Lind starting for the first time this season.

Scrum-half Peter Stringer has recovered from a bicep injury picked up in September, which was expected to rule him out for at least two months.

Toulon’s starting line-up includes World Cup winners Ma’a Nonu and Bryan Habana.

Argentine and ex-Sale back row Juan Fernandez Lobbe also starts for the three-time champions.

Sale Sharks: Michael Haley; Byron McGuigan, Will Addison, Mark Jennings, Paulo Odogwu; Sam James, Peter Stringer; Ross Harrison, Neil Briggs, Brian Mujati, Bryn Evans, Andrei Ostrikov, Cameron Neild, Magnus Lund, Josh Beaumont

Replacements: Eifion Lewis-Roberts, Halani Aulika, Jon Mills, David Seymour, Thomas Curry, James Mitchell, Daniel Mugford, Sam Bedlow

Toulon: Leigh Halfpenny; James O’Connor, Mathieu Bastareaud, Ma’a Nonu, Bryan Habana; Francois Trinh-Duc, Eric Escande; Xavier Chiocci, Guilhem Guirado, Levan Chilachava, Mamuka Gorgodze, Romain Taofifenua, Charles Ollivon, Juan Fernandez Lobbe, Duane Vermeulen

Replacements: Anthony Etrillard, Laurent Delboulbes, Marcel van der Merwe, Samu Manoa, Matt Carraro, Pierre Bernard, Sebastien Tillous-Borde, Jocelino Suta

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-union/37707148