SARACENS wing David Strettle says Jonny Wilkinson-inspired Toulon are far more than a dream team of expensively assembled talent.
Twickenham hosts the second Heineken Cup semi-final tomorrow when Saracens will be hoping to become the first English club to defeat their big-spending rivals from France in the tournament.
The riches of president Mourad Boudjellal have bankrolled Toulon’s recruitment but it was not until the arrival of Wilkinson in 2009 that the club began making progress.
The subsequent acquisition of seasoned internationals such as Bakkies Botha, Matt Giteau, Andrew Sheridan and Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe has placed them in contention for a European and French league double this season.
But Strettle insists their success owes just as much to the philosophy adopted by the players as to the vast array of talent in the squad – with Wilkinson’s dedication setting the tone. “They’ve managed to gel a group of very talented players with a team mentality,” the England wing said. “It’s not just a dream team of guys playing for themselves, they’re playing for the club and supporters.
“That’s why they’re doing so well – they’re got the right mindset, have such talented players and have adopted the right work ethic.
“Jonny is just one of a myriad of star players they have. He’s so devoted and that rubs off on people.
“When others see someone put so much effort in, they feel guilty if they’re not doing the same.
“When I first started playing for England he was still playing. He was the guy who took professional rugby to the next level with his work ethic and commitment.”