Toulon's 'at ease' ex-All Blacks Nonu, Toeava face festive Clermont feast

Illtud DAFYDD

Toulon head coach Patrice Collazo said former New Zealand centres Ma'a Nonu and Isaia Toeava have a natural "ease" playing together as they prepare to take on Clermont in the French Top 14 this Sunday.

Nonu returned to the club on a short-term deal in November after Toeava, who can play across the back-line, 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 fixture.

"The two together, whatever position they play, they manage to pass on messages around them, most notably among the backs."

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.

- 'It's time' -

Collazo's men withdrew from last Friday's European Champions Cup trip to the Scarlets less than two hours before kick-off due to coronavirus 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 draw 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."

French international centre Wesley Fofana will captain Clermont as he makes his first appearance following a three-month injury layoff.

Fofana, 32, who has been sidelined with a thigh problem, has been given the honour to mark his 200th game with the club as Camille Lopez is rested.

Elsewhere, Nonu and Toeava's former international team-mate Jerome Kaino will be absent as Toulouse host Bordeaux-Begles.

The two-time 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."

Pablo Matera is set for his first Stade Francais appearance since the Argentina captaincy was stripped from him, then reinstated, for racist comments he made on social media, with a trip to Pau.

Castres' match against Bayonne has been postponed after several cases of Covid-19 in the Bayonne ranks, the third time that Castres have suffered this fate this season.

It is possible the Bayonne players were infected by English Premiership team Leicester who they lost to last weekend in the European Challenge Cup.

Leicester's match at Newcastle on Saturday had to be called off because Leicester had too many players self-isolating to be able to play the fixture.

Fixtures (times GMT)

Sunday

La Rochelle v Montpellier (1300), Pau v Stade Francais, Racing 92 v Agen, Brive v Lyon (all 1500), Toulouse v Bordeaux-Begles (1700), Toulon v Clermont (2000)

Postponed: Castres v Bayonne

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