'I'm starting to become one of the oldest guys in the squad'
TOP 14, WEEK TWO: Australian flyhalf Zack Holmes says he is comfortable with becoming one of Toulouse’s most experienced squad members as the French Top 14 champions deal with multiple Rugby World Cup absentees ahead of his side’s trip to Lyon on Sunday.
Holmes, 29, leads a backline awash with fresh faces as Toulouse deal with a league high of 13 players away on international duty ahead of the tournament, which begins on September 20.
“I try and talk to the youngsters, mainly to the academy members who have joined the squad this summer,” he told newspaper Midi Olympique on Friday.
“It’s what I need to do more of during the World Cup because I’m starting to become one of the oldest guys in the squad. I’m quite comfortable with that.
“The start of the season is complicated, obviously. The context is done and the players present at the club have to give their maximum to deal with the situation,” he added.
The likes of France’s Maxime Medard, Yoann Huget, both 32, and 30-year-old Sofiane Guitoune are unavailable for the opening one-third of the new campaign, as is goal-kicker Thomas Ramos.
Holmes scored 15 points from the boot during the opening weekend’s 25-30 defeat to Bordeaux and says he is ready to continue in the role he has been accustomed to since his days with the Brumbies and La Rochelle.
“I’ve been used to being the goal-kicker during my whole career, even if I do it a little bit less at Toulouse due to Thomas’ success,” he said.
“There’s a big responsibility but then you have the chance to reward your team and I like that,” he added.
Holmes will face former Toulouse flyhalf Jean-Marc Doussain this weekend, who scored a try and slotted four conversions in last Saturday’s trouncing of Stade Francais.
Doussain, who spent nine seasons at the Stade Ernest-Wallon before joining ambitious Lyon in 2018, said he was confident his former side could deal with the lack of old-heads out wide due to the presence of former New Zealand world champions Jerome Kaino and Charlie Faumuina among their forwards.
“The team is suffering especially with all the absentees at the back. Rugby is played and always will be played by the forwards. When I see Toulouse’s pack, I’m not too worried for them,” he told Midi Olympique.
Elsewhere, promoted Bayonne host last year’s losing finalists Clermont after the Basques claimed the scalp of Racing 92 in Paris last Saturday.
The other pick of the ties sees Bordeaux hosting Toulon, two sides who claimed impressive victories in the opening round.
French Top 14 fixtures:
Bayonne v Clermont
La Rochelle v Stade Francais
Montpellier v Pau
Agen v Brive
Bordeaux v Toulon
Racing 92 v Castres
Lyon v Toulouse