First 20 minutes will be key in Toulon says Edinburgh’s Ben Toolis

Edinburgh's Ben Toolis. Picture: Bill Murray/SNS/SRU
Edinburgh's Ben Toolis. Picture: Bill Murray/SNS/SRU
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Lock Ben Toolis believes another flying start could see Edinburgh on their way to one of their most famous wins as they prepare to head for the glamour of the south of France and a momentous clash with the superstars of Toulon on Saturday.

Toolis got the ball rolling back in October when he scored from close-range as Edinburgh went on to blow the three-time kings of Europe away 40-14 at BT Murrayfield.

That bonus-point win gave Richard Cockerill’s side belief they could progress from Heineken Champions Cup Pool 5 and a back-to-back double over Newcastle has left them top of the pile and within touching distance of the 
quarter-finals.

Toulon are out of it after a disappointing start to the competition and the feeling is that the opening stages of the game will test how much fight the French still have in them.

“The first ten to 20 minutes is going to be crucial for us,” agreed the 26-year-old Scotland internationalist. “With any French team, if you let them in the game and they get their tails up, they are hard to stay with.

“Last time at Murrayfield, we started really well, got two quick tries within the first 20 minutes, and with any team when that happens they subconsciously struggle to get back from that.”

Toolis’s early score, when he made the final inch after Stuart McInally’s tap penalty drive, was followed by 
tries from Henry Pyrgos, 
McInally himself and Chris Dean, pictured inset, in that home rout.

The 14-times capped second row is relishing the chance to now go to the hothouse of the Stade Mayol and complete a double which would have had astronomical odds when the draw was made.

“[These games are] why you play the game,” he said. “Toulon are a powerhouse in Europe playing in their own backyard – it will be a great experience. Cockers used to coach there and he’s been trying to tell us his experiences, so playing there will be really enjoyable.

“The crowd will get behind them and it will be a big test to see where we are really, 
mentally to see if we can cope with it, and form-wise to see if we can keep it going under pressure. It is a great opportunity and hopefully we’ll take it with two hands, and take the confidence from the last few games and try to get the win.”

Edinburgh know they will have another shot at winning the pool next week when Montpellier come calling but the hope remains that the job, or as much of it as possible, can be done this weekend.

“That’s five in a row and we’re feeling pretty confident,” said Toolis.

“It’s not like we’ve had five easy wins – Newcastle back-to-back and Glasgow back-to-back – there was probably a bit of doubt with at least two of those games, the away ones.

“Then we had a good win at the weekend against the Southern Kings. So, I think we’re in a good place, and we’ll take that confidence into this week.

“We played Toulon at home and got a really good result, but we realise that they had a lot of their key players missing. Then when we had a bit of a losing streak in November, so to get that win at home and that really important win away against Newcastle was really big for us.

“We knew they were going to come out hard and it was a really tough game.

“They played really well last season, they have struggled a bit this season but it was still a really tough game so to get a result there and push up the table a bit gave us a bit more confidence.

“Then Glasgow speaks for itself, we always get up for that one. So a really enjoyable 
last few games – it has been good.”

Putting aside the fact Toulon are gone in the competition, Toolis looks at the personnel and their prestige as a side and is preparing for a huge test.

“Toulon have a very heavy forward pack, they’ll be heavier than Newcastle,” he said. “They have a big power game, so physicality needs to be on point this weekend, the collisions are going to be big.

“They want to get front foot ball, so we need to try and slow them down and not allow their backs to get the ball that they want, because they’ve got some superstars in the 
backline. We need to try and catch them up physically and slow the ball down, we don’t want them to play the way they want to.

“They want to use their power game to get quick ball on the gain line to put us on the back foot, so most importantly he [Cockerill] wants us to show up and physically be on it.”