Saturday's all-French semi-final represents the fifth time in nineyears two French clubs have reached the last four. This is the firstsemi-final for Biarritz. Toulouse, champions in 1986 and 2003, are waiting on Test fly-halfFrederic Michalak who undergoes a fitness test on his dodgy ankle on Saturdaymorning.
If he plays he will be at scrum-half alongside Yann Delaigue, wholeaves for Castres next season after being edged down the pecking order byMichalak and injured France scrum-half Jean-Baptiste Elissalde.
If Michalak is ruled out third-choice scrum-half Sylvain Dupuywill play.
Elissalde tore a hamstring in the Six Nations win over Wales andwill not be back until next season. Biarritz can count on Test halfbacks Dimitri Yachvili, man of thematch in the Six Nations Grand Slam win over England, and Julien Peyrelongue,who stepped in when Michalak was injured in the Six Nations this term.
Biarritz coach Patrice Lagisquet says the match is evenly balanced. "You can't really draw up a game plan because they think sowell on their feet. They've got such a strong experienced squad they know how tochange if things aren't going their way," said the former Test wing.
"We think we have the side to beat them but just becausewe've done it once
Biarritz will be counting on fit-again No 8 Thomas Lievremont andnon-stop blind-side flanker Serge Betsen winning ball at the breakdown.
Their pack develops a powerful rolling maul which Toulouse willhave to counter legally if they want to avoid giving Yachvili penalty kicks. But the Toulouse backs of Clement Poitrenaud, Vincent Clerc,Yannick Jauzion, Emile N'Tamack, playing his sixth European Cup semi-final,and Cedric Heymans carry lots of menace if gaps open in the Biarritz defence.
And Biarritz will be without injured Australian centres John Isaacand Marc Stcherbina who have been so good in defence this season.
Under 19 international Thibault Lacroix and Argentina Test centreMartin Gaitan are lined up to play.
Toulouse No 8 Christian Labit would have preferred to play English champions Wasps, who face Munster at Lansdowne Road on Sunday. "Biarritz know as much about us as we know about them. Itdoesn't always help. They have a good, old-fashioned pack and two or three matchwinners in the backs," he said. "It could be a classic."
Probable teams Biarritz Olympique: Nicolas Brusque, Philippe Bidabe, Martin Gaitan,Thibault Lacroix, Jimmy Marlu, Julien Peyrelongue, Dimitri Yachvili, ThomasLievremont, Ovidiu Tonita, Serge Betsen, David Couzinet, Herve Manent, DenisAvril, Jean-Michel Gonzalez, Petru Vladimir Balan
Toulouse: Clement Poitrenaud, Vincent Clerc, Yannick Jauzion,Emile N'Tamack, Cedric Heymans, Yann Delaigue, Sylvain Dupuy or FredericMichalak, Christian Labit, Finau Maka, Jean Bouihlou, Trevor Brennan, FabienPelous, Jean-Baptiste Poux, Yannick Bru, Patrice Collazo
Referee: Tony Spreadbury (ENG)
AFP - 2004