Ma’a Nonu’s Return Lackluster for Toulon

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TOULON, FRANCE - OCTOBER 15: Ma'a Nonu of Toulon looks on during the European Rugby Champions Cup match between RC Toulon and Saracens at Stade Felix Mayol on October 15, 2016 in Toulon, France. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

RC Toulon suffered an historic defeat at the hands of Saracens. Ma’a Nonu’s return was rife with difficulties in the opening round of Champions Cup play.

Ma’a Nonu made his return to RC Toulon following a month’s absence. The world famous All Black suffered a severe concussion during an early season rematch against Racing 92. Nonu has experienced many set backs over the past few months. During the Top 14 Final, the two time RWC winner was also removed from action due to a concussion.

The absence of Nonu was evident, as his play was lackluster and seemed to be half a step behind the strong defense of the Saracens. The day went from bad to worse when Nonu was given a yellow card in the 54th minute for a dangerous tackle on Saracens captain Brad Barritt. The 102 time test cap for the All Blacks has been an exceptional centre for Toulon. This season has been difficult for the entire Toulon team and especially for Nonu. His month long injury so early in the season has made it difficult to get into a proper playing routine. The years of this legendary player are limited, but he is not yet ready to hang up his cleats. During the time of his injury, according to Le’Equipe, Nonu was currently in negotiations with the Toulon President to extend his contract to the end of 2018.

Toulon’s Champions Cup hopes are on the line, and on the road.

This week Toulon will be travelling in their second round of Champions Cup play. This is a must win game for Toulon to keep the possibility of a playoff berth alive. RC Toulon suffered a historic loss last week to Saracens. That game marked Toulon’s first home loss in the entire history of the Champions Cup. Toulon have struggled at home already this season, losing matches to Brive, along with the loss to Saracens.

Toulon will be traveling across the Channel to face the Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium. Sale last week lost their opening game as well, to a Scarlets team that has yet to prove themselves in Pro 12 play. With a game like that one could assume this would be an exceptional rebound game for Toulon, but that would be a mistake. Sale have an amazing home record. Leicester have lost both matches in the past two years to Sale at home in the Premiership. Saracens, Exeter, and Wasps did not taste victory either on the road last year. Sale play very well at home, and are expected to continue that trend this week. They have a solid offense and offload game as well. Their defense at home is exceptional, and will cause problems for the struggling Toulon back line.

Searching for a Solution

The best solution for Toulon this week would be to play both Nonu and Bastareud. The power of both Toulon centres will help pound the Sale defense into submission early in the match. Leigh Halfpenny’s kicking abilities will be important as well. Sale have been struggling due to a rash of player injuries through the early stages of the season. Toulon will be without their backup scrum half due to an injury of their own to Anthony Meric, who will be sidelined for six months with a knee injury.

RC Toulon play must improve to keep their hopes alive

Ma’a Nonu must improve his performance for Toulon if they are to continue in their hunt for the Champions Cup playoffs. Sale may seem like a weak team, but they can be ruthless and fitting of their mascot at home. Toulon’s best solution is to stack the deck with power hitters to wear down the Sale defense early in the game.

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