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Pelous Doesn’t Want The Favourites Tag

Pelous Doesn’t Want The Favourites Tag

They’re the defending champions. They’re playing an hour from their home town. They have the best paid players in the game yet their captain is uncomfortable with the tag of favourites.

France captain Fabien Pelous
refuses to
accept the notion defending champions Toulouse are favourites to win
sixth European Cup semi-final against French rivals Biarritz in
Bordeaux on
“It’s true we have the big match experience but this
semi-final is being
played in France and Biarritz have a strong, all-round side with a
good pack
and lots of pace in the backs,” said the 91-Test cap lock.

Saturday’s all-French semi-final represents the fifth time in nine
two French clubs have reached the last four. This is the first
semi-final for
Toulouse, champions in 1986 and 2003, are waiting on Test fly-half
who undergoes a fitness test on his dodgy ankle on Saturday

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If he plays he will be at scrum-half alongside Yann Delaigue, who
for Castres next season after being edged down the pecking order by
and injured France scrum-half Jean-Baptiste Elissalde.

If Michalak is ruled out third-choice scrum-half Sylvain Dupuy
will play.

Elissalde tore a hamstring in the Six Nations win over Wales and
will not
be back until next season.
Biarritz can count on Test halfbacks Dimitri Yachvili, man of the
match in
the Six Nations Grand Slam win over England, and Julien Peyrelongue,
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 so
well on their
feet. They’ve got such a strong experienced squad they know how to
change if
things aren’t going their way,” said the former Test wing.

“We think we have the side to beat them but just because
we’ve done it once
already in the championship this season doesn’t make it any

Biarritz will be counting on fit-again No 8 Thomas Lievremont and
blind-side flanker Serge Betsen winning ball at the breakdown.

Their pack develops a powerful rolling maul which Toulouse will
have to
counter legally if they want to avoid giving Yachvili penalty kicks.
But the Toulouse backs of Clement Poitrenaud, Vincent Clerc,
Jauzion, Emile N’Tamack,
playing his sixth European Cup semi-final,
and Cedric
carry lots of menace if gaps open in the Biarritz defence.

And Biarritz will be without injured Australian centres John Isaac
and Marc
who have been so good in defence this season.

Under 19 international Thibault Lacroix and Argentina Test centre
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. It
doesn’t always
help. They have a good, old-fashioned pack and two or three match
winners in
the backs,” he said.
“It could be a classic.”

Probable teams
Biarritz Olympique: Nicolas Brusque, Philippe Bidabe, Martin Gaitan,
Lacroix, Jimmy Marlu, Julien Peyrelongue, Dimitri Yachvili, Thomas
Ovidiu Tonita, Serge Betsen, David Couzinet, Herve Manent, Denis
Jean-Michel Gonzalez, Petru Vladimir Balan

Toulouse: Clement Poitrenaud, Vincent Clerc, Yannick Jauzion,
N’Tamack, Cedric Heymans, Yann Delaigue, Sylvain Dupuy or Frederic
Christian Labit, Finau Maka, Jean Bouihlou, Trevor Brennan, Fabien
Jean-Baptiste Poux, Yannick Bru, Patrice Collazo

Referee: Tony Spreadbury (ENG)

AFP – 2004