FRENCH comic book publishe, Mourad Boudjellal has spent millions of euros gathering rugby union stars from around the globe in his quest to land Top 14 and Heineken Cup glory for his beloved Toulon.
Boudjellal, who made his fortune through Marvel-style comic books, has compiled quite an array of stars as Munster supporters will see when the sides clash in Sunday’s glamour Heineken Cup semi-final showdown at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille.
NOW 34, England’s World Cup winning out-half Wilkinson remains a key figure for Toulon in the pivotal number 10 shirt.
Play-maker Wilkinson is set to shake off a hamstring injury in time to face Munster, Rob Penney’s men this weekend. Munster players will appreciate the importance of not conceding penalties within kicking distance of their posts this weekend.
MUNSTER and Ireland fans will be very much aware of the attacking threat South African winger Habana poses to them this weekend.
The 30-year-old is a renowned finisher scoring 53 tries in 95 appearances for the Springboks to date. He has also scored 150 tries at club level. The three-time South African player of the Year is coming back to full fitness having been sidelined in recent months with a hamstring problem.
THE exciting French international centre joined Toulon from Stade Francais in July 2011.
The 25-year-old was Man of the Match in Toulon’s 2013 Heineken Cup final win over Clermont Auvergne.
Bastareaud is first choice starting 13 with France at present, featuring in all of their 6 Nations fixtures this season, including the decisive clash with Ireland in Paris last month.
Thirty one-year-old Australian centre Giteau is in his third season with Toulon, having featured in their 2013 Heineken Cup winning side.
A two-time Super Rugby winner with the Brumbies, Giteau has played more than 90 times for the Wallabies.
A hugely creative influence in Toulon’s backline, Giteau can play inside centre, fly-half and halfback, although he started his career as a scrum-half.
THIRTY four-year-old tighthead prop Carl Hayman has played for Otago at provincial level, the Highlanders in the Super 14 and the All Blacks at international level.
Hayman reportedly became the best paid rugby union player in the world after joining English Premiership side, Newcastle Falcons in 2007.
Hayman move to Toulon in the summer of 2010. The renowned scrummager played 45 times for the All-Blacks between 2001 and 2007.
THIRTY five-year-old South African back-row/lock Danie Rossouw is a World Cup winner with the Springboks from 2007.
One of the most decorated players in world rugby, second-row Rossouw has also won three Currie Cup titles, a hat-trick of Super Rugby titles with the Bulls, a Heineken Cup medal with Toulon last season as well as Japanese club honours, a Tri-Nations title with South Africa on top of a series victory over the British and Irish Lions.
THIRTY year-old full-back Delon Armitage won 26 caps for England between 2008 and 2012.
Armitage joined Toulon from London Irish in 2012.
In February 2009, Armitage and his brother, Steffon, who is also likely to face Munster in Marseille this weekend, were both named in England’s starting XV to take on Italy in the opening game of the 2009 Six Nations Championship.
Twenty seven year old winger Smith is a Samoan international who has previously played for the Hurricanes, Blues and Western Force in Super Rugby.
Munster will be anxious to deny Smith any space within which to attack this weekend as he is a lethal finisher given even the slightest opening.
THIRTY year-old Australian star Mitchell can play on the wing or as fullback.
Up to the 2006 season he played for the Queensland Reds, before switching to the Western Force for the 2007–09 Super 14 seasons.
From 2010 until 2013 he has played for the New South Wales Waratahs before moving to Toulon.
Mitchell, who made his debut for Australia in 2005, won 63 caps for the Wallabies and scored 150 points for his country.
THIRTY one-year-old flair player Michalak has been deputising for Jonny Wilkinson in recent weeks with the England international recovering from injury.
Wilkinson is in line to replace Michalak at out-half this weekend, however.
Michalak’s early career was spent playing for his hometown team, Toulouse, in the Top 14 and in the Heineken Cup. He moved to South Africa to play for the Sharks in the Super 14 after the 2007 Rugby World Cup, but after just one year with the Natal Sharks he moved back to Toulouse. He has also played close on 60 tests for France to date.
Juan Fernandez Lobbe
The 32-year-old back-row forward has won close on 60 caps for his native Argentina and has captained the Pumas on several occasions.
Munster fans will also be familiar with Fernandez Lobbe from the time he spent with the Sale Sharks in England and the sides Heineken Cup pool meetings.
The vastly experienced Fernandez Lobbe joined Toulon in 2009.
Thirty two-year-old Juan Smith has been a key figure in Toulon’s back row as the Heineken Cup holders advanced to another semi-final clash.
Former Springbok flank Smith recently extended his contract with European champions Toulon until 2016.
The 69-Test cap former Cheetahs stalwart, has become a regular feature in the RCT starting XV as he continues his remarkable comeback from a series of potentially career-ending Achilles tendon injuries.
Thirty four-year-old Bakkies Botha was a World Cup winner with South Africa in 2007.
In addition Botha won two Tri Nations titles with the Springboks in 2004 and 2009.
Botha signed for Toulon from from Blue Bulls provincial team in the Currie Cup competition and the Bulls Super Rugby team in 2011.
To date, Botha has won 78 caps for South Africa and is renowned for his high work rate and uncompromising physicality in the contact area.
Thirty two-year-old Williams featured in four of Toulon’s pool games in the Heineken Cup, but injury ruled him out of the quarter-final win over Leinster.
Williams, who has won 77 caps for the All Blacks and was part of their Rugby World Cup-winning side in 2011, joined a stellar cast of new recruits at Toulon last summer on a one-year deal.