Toulon v Edinburgh: Good start is key to success, says Ben Toolis

Lessons learned from opening rounds of European campaign will help capital outfit to claim scalp of European 'powerhouse'

Ben Toolis
Ben Toolis says Edinburgh need to set the tone early on against Toulon in order to secure a famous win in France. Image: Fotosport/David Gibson***

BEN TOOLIS says that the key to Edinburgh’s success against Toulon in Saturday’s Champions Cup clash at Stade Felix-Mayol will be how his team starts the game. The second-row scored the opening try when Richard Cockerill’s side convincingly defeated the Frenchmen 40-14 at Murrayfield back in October, and while he knows this weekend’s match will be a much tougher proposition, he also believes that his team can still draw a valuable lesson from the way that previous match panned out.

“The opening 10 to 20 minutes is going to be crucial for us,” he said. “With any French team, if you let them into the game, and they get their tails up, then they are hard to stay with. Whereas last time at Murrayfield, we started really well, got two quick tries within the first 20 minutes, and with any team when that happens they subconsciously struggle to get back from that.

“But we realise that they had a lot of their key players missing [that day] and we know the fans will get behind them at home this week,” he added. “They are very passionate and that can be the difference in the game sometimes. Subconsciously you are thinking about it and as a player it can play in your mind. So, we need to start well, keep their scoring down, and hopefully our fitness will pull through in the latter stages of the game.”

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Another valuable lesson for Toolis and his team-mates was the game the week before that Toulon victory away, when Edinburgh surrendered three fairly soft first half tries in the Champions Cup campaign opener away to Montpellier, which left them with too much ground to make up despite a spirited fightback in the second half.

“Toulon will want to use their power game to get quick ball on the gain-line to put us on the back foot, so the most important thing for Cockers [Cockerill] is that we show up and really be on our game physically,” said Toolis.

“We’ve won five in a row and we’re feeling pretty confident. It’s not like we’ve had five easy wins – Newcastle back-to-back, Glasgow back-to-back and a good win at the weekend against the Kings – so I think we’re in a good place, and we’ll take that confidence into this week.

“Games like this are why you play the game. Toulon are a powerhouse in Europe playing in their own backyard – it will be a great experience. It will be a big test to see where we really are – see if we can cope with it mentally and keep our form going under pressure.

Edinburgh are currently four points clear of Montpellier at the top of Champions Cup pool five. A victory over bottom of the pool Toulon on Saturday would put them in a commanding position going into their final pool match at home to Montpellier the following Friday night, and it will guarantee them progression to the knock-out stages with a game to spare if Montpellier lose at home to Newcastle Falcons in their penultimate match.

Current pool standings –

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David Barnes
About David Barnes 1288 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.