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(No headline) 2714

Toulouse coach Guy Noves has yet to decide whether to pick tearaway France scrum-half Jean-Baptiste Elissalde or Test fly-half Frederic Michalak as his No 9 for Sunday’s Heinmeken Cup
final against English champions Wasps.

Michalak’s recent ankle injury has slowed him down a bit and Noves
not say who will play alongside club No 10 Yann Delaigue. He has
shuffled his
half-back combinations all season.
“I don’t know whether I’ll play the first hour or come on as
a replacement
but I do know I’m fit and ready,” Elissalde said.

Elissalde knows he will only please his hard-to-satisfy coach if
inspires Toulouse to a win at Twickenham.
Noves, never one to hide his feelings, accused his player of
misconduct when he scored a 40-metre try for France against Wales in
Elissalde, already struggling with injury, tore his hamstring and
was ruled
out for nine weeks.
He missed the Six Nations Grand Slam showdown with England and at
one point
it looked as if he would miss his second European final in successive
“Let’s just say I’ve got a lot to make up,” he said.
He missed last year’s Lansdowne Road European Cup final win over
with a similar injury. “I’m really looking forward to Sunday’s
match,” he
“Wasps are a fast, powerful side but a bit one-dimensional.
Hopefully there
a few flaws to exploit.”
Noves expects his players to raise their game following last
French championship play-off defeat to Stade Francais.
Only the four semi-finalists in the French championship qualify
for next
season’s European Cup and Toulouse, third in their pool behind Stade
and Biarritz, face Wasps on Sunday and then tackle Biarritz in the
championships three days later.
“It looks as if we will have to beat Wasps to qualify for
Europe next
season,” Noves said. “But the mark of a great side is
picking yourself up
after a defeat.”
Noves was hoping Irish referee Alain Rolland kept a close eye on
the Wasps
defensive line.
“Their defence is quick to move up, often at the limit
off-side,” he said.
“They’re a good, all-round side who develop good momentum.
They’re always
looking to move the ball. They’re the sort of side I like,” he
Novrs played all his rugby for Toulouse, winning seven caps on the
between 1977 and 1979 and twice winning a French champions’ medal in
1985 and
He took over as coach from Pierre Villepreux and Jean-Claude
Skrela in 1993
and has led his side to victory in eight finals, two in the European
Cup, in
1996 and 2003, and six in the French Championship, in 1994, 1995,
1996, 1997,
1999 and 2001.
He believes this big-match experience could be a key. “Wasps
are clearly
favourites but we can go into the match with no pressure on our
shoulders,” he
Lawrence Dallaglio’s Wasps, in the final for the first time, have
qualified for the English Premiership final against Bath on May 29.
But history shows they know how to handle tough assignements. They
Toulouse out 77-17 in a European Cup match in France in 1996.
Wasps received a major boost when centre Fraser Waters was
declared fit for
Sunday’s showdown.
Waters limped off with a hamstring injury during last weekend’s
play-off victory over Northampton.
He was rated only a 50-50 prospect by Wasps rugby director Warren
earlier this week, but he trained fully on Saturday and will take his
place in
midfield alongside Stuart Abbott.
Once Waters was given the green light, it enabled Gatland to name
unchanged team from the one which crushed Northampton 57-20 five days
“It is a big plus that he was able to train fully today. It
is a big lift
for us all,” said Dallaglio.

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