Sir Ian backs Toulon for Euro hat-trick

Ian McGeechan3635569Sir Ian McGeechan believes Toulon (3/1 favourites European Champions Cup outright) are still the team to beat ahead of this year’s European Champions Cup, despite the departure of Jonny Wilkinson.

The French side have dominated the continent’s premier club competition in recent years, beating Clermont (9/1 European Champions Cup outright) in the 2013 final before dominating Saracens (9/1) at the Millennium Stadium in May.

However, it has been Wilkinson who has been the driving force behind both of those successes but they will have to do it without him this time around, following the fly-half’s retirement at the end of last term.

The Stade Mayol outfit begin their defence of the reshaped tournament at home to the Scarlets on Saturday and it looks like it will be former Australia playmaker Matt Giteau who will move in from the centres to direct the team from number 10.

Whereas Wilkinson’s genius was in his ability to grind teams down with his boot, Giteau in contrast excels in open space, with his running ability certain to give his side’s backs extra freedom.

Repeated success at the top level is all about continually evolving and McGeechan, who helped guide Wasps to European glory in 2007, believes the changes in their back-line will mean it will once again be Bernard Laporte’s men who emerge victorious at Twickenham on May 2.

“I still think that the champions of the last two years will be the side to beat,” he wrote in the Daily Telegraph. “Jonny Wilkinson has retired but bringing in the Australian Matt Giteau at fly-half to replace him is intriguing and maybe gives them a more attacking edge.

“Obviously Wilkinson was a huge part of Toulon’s back-to-back victories in this competition, but he was more prone to sit back in the pocket, whereas Giteau is superb at attacking the line and asking real questions of the opposition defence with late calls. He keeps them honest.”

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