France’s domestic season kicked off in sizzling conditions last weekend and if the red inside thermometers across southern France were forcing their way to the top, then the red of Toulon was performing in similar fashion as they edged their way to an impressive away win in Perpignan.
Even more impressive, however, was the performance of Jonny Wilkinson, or better said his left boot that scored all 21 of Toulon’s points in a flawless kicking display by the King. Coming away from the Stade Aime Giral with a kicking percentage of 100% was a herculean effort from the 33-year-old, who has no doubt been motivated by the arrival of the mercurial and adroit former prince of French rugby Freddie Michalak.
In the other big game of the weekend, Castres shocked champions Toulouse when they went within eight minutes of a stunning away win, only to be denied by a Timoci Matanavou try that needed the video referee to decipher a possible forward pass in the lead up by Edwin Maka. Maka made as much impact as a pacific earthquake with his carries and frighteningly large frame (2,02m and 130 kg). Oh, and the Tongan forward and nephew of the famous Maka brothers is only 19 years old! Toulouse have since rewarded him with a five year contract to warn off any potential suitors such was the profoundness of his impact last Friday night.
Elsewhere, Biarritz will have to endure the next three months without their general Dimitri Yachvilli, who needed an operation on a slipped disc. Seemingly unhappy to go quietly, Yachvilli came out with some slanderous comments on the state of French rugby in an interview with le Figaro. Yachvilli claimed that French talent was being destroyed by narrow-minded owners looking to buy quality foreign players to the detriment of young French players.
It’s Paris where it sizzles this week as champions Toulon travel to the nation’s capital for yet another tough away fixture. Racing will be encouraged by their win away to Agen last week, but Toulon showed at Perpignan that they mean business even away from fortress Mayol. I have gone for Clermont and Perpignan away from home, whilst I feel Toulouse, Bayonne, Castres and Agen will hold strong at home.
Here are my Superbru picks for round 2:
Bordeaux Begles v Perpignan: Perpignan by 10
Racing Metro v Toulon: Toulon by 6
Montpellier v Clermont Auvergne: Clermont by 4
Toulouse v Mont-de-Marsan: Toulouse by 30
Castres v Grenoble: Castres by 15
Bayonne v Stade Francais: Bayonne by 5
Agen v Biarritz: Agen by 6