Toulon's 'at ease' All Blacks face festive Clermont feast
TOP 14 PREVIEW: Toulon coach Patrice Collazo said New Zealand centres Ma’a Nonu and Isaia Toeava are “at ease” with each other ahead of hosting Clermont this Sunday.
Nonu returned to the club on a short-term deal in November after Toeava, who can play across the back-line, had joined the three-time European champions for the new campaign.
The pair featured 20 times together at Test level and spent a season with the Blues in Super Rugby before Toeava’s departure for the Canon Eagles in Japan’s Top League in 2012.
“They already had a connection because they knew each other which put them at ease on the field,” Collazo said before this weekend’s Christmas fixture.
“The two together, whatever position they play, they manage to pass on messages around them, most notably among the backs,” he added.
Toeava arrived on the Mediterranean coast after four campaigns at Stade Marcel-Michelin where he won a league and European Challenge Cup title.
“Like any player who plays against his former club it remains a unique moment,” former France prop Collazo said.
“He did a good job at Clermont, his reunion will be healthy. He’s a great player,” he added.
Collazo’s men withdrew from last Friday’s European Champions Cup trip to the Scarlets less than two hours before kick-off due to COVID-19 concerns.
After saying they were considering appealing the tournament organisers’ decision to hand the Welsh region a 28-0 walkover win Collazo said a line had been written under the incident.
“The objective is simple, which is to move on to the coming weekend and Clermont coming to us,” Collazo said.
“We haven’t had time to mull over things and ask 10,000 questions because of what’s ahead of us. It’s easy to move on,” he added.
Elsewhere on a day with all seven games from the Top 14’s matchday, Nonu and Toeava’s former international teammate Jerome Kaino’s will be absent as Toulouse host Bordeaux-Begles.
The double Rugby World Cup winner is expected to join the record 20-time French champions’ coaching staff after he announced this week he will hang up his boots at the end of the season.
“When you know it’s time, it’s time,” he told the French Rugby Podcast.
“The game’s given me so much I’d love to give something back,” he added.
Additionally, back-rower Pablo Matera is set for his first Stade Francais appearance since the Argentina captaincy was taken away then reinstated from him for racist comments made on social media with a trip to Pau on a day where money and attention will be raised to key health workers by the French top-flight.
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Sunday, December 27
La Rochelle v Montpellier (13.00)
Pau v Stade Francais (15.00)
Racing 92 v Agen (15.00)
Brive v Lyon (15.00)
Castres v Bayonne (15.00)
Toulouse v Bordeaux-Begles (17.00)
Toulon v Clermont (20.00)