Free-scoring leaders Toulouse without seven internationals
LEADING SIDE: Australian fly-half Zack Holmes said Toulouse’s lack of fear in attack has installed them as leaders of the Top 14 ahead of Sunday’s trip to second-placed La Rochelle.
Holmes’ side has scored a league best 488 points so far this term and is unbeaten in eight games since November 1.
“We’re on a good run of form at the moment. We’ve been able to build some confidence from that,” he told AFP this week.
“We believe in our strategy and when we play well we aren’t afraid to move the ball and back our skills,” he added.
The record 20-time champions will be without France pair Romain Ntamack and Thomas Ramos due to fitness issues as well as five Les Bleus squad members who are on a pre-Six Nations training camp.
“It’s unfortunate for them to pick up injuries especially this time of the year when the Six Nations is on. It’s bad for us and for the French national team,” Holmes said.
“It gives me more opportunity to play but in this time period of the Six Nations I would be playing anyway,” he added.
South Africa’s Rugby World Cup winner Cheslin Kolbe will be available for the trip to the Atlantic coast after playing his first match since December in last Saturday’s win at bottom side Agen.
“He’s unreal. What he’s been able to achieve over the last two years has been incredible,” Holmes said.
“He’s had a few injuries to start this season. We’ve got him back now so hopefully we can see some of his magic.”
Holmes returns to Stade Marcel-Deflandre this weekend where he spent two seasons before joining the title holders four years ago.
“It was difficult for me to leave. The opportunity at Toulouse was too good. For my rugby I thought it was the best,” he said.
“It’s a match I’m looking forward to, it’s a match all our players are looking forward to. It’s not going to be easy,” he added.
Australia lock Will Skelton, who weighs 125kg and is 2.03m tall, returns for the home side, who trail Toulouse by three points in the table, after he was suspended for a shoulder charge.
“He’s a big boy. You don’t really want him in your channel. You just go low and hope for the best,” Holmes said.
“He’s given them a big ball carrier that they like to use. A big five, to get over the gain line. He’s really added to their game,” he added.
Elsewhere, struggling billionaire-backed Montpellier is eyeing a first victory since mid-December as they host fourth-placed Racing 92.
Kotaro Matsushima’s Clermont entertain in-form Bordeaux-Begles and Eben Etzebeth’s Toulon head to Brive.
Fixtures (times GMT)
Montpellier v Racing 92 (19.45)
Clermont v Bordeaux-Begles (14.15), Bayonne v Agen, Lyon v Pau, Brive v Toulon (all 17.15)
Stade Francais v Castres (13.45), La Rochelle v Toulouse (20.05)