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May 18, 2018

Michalak aims for glorious swansong at ex-club’s expense


May 18, 2018

PARIS: Frederic Michalak returns to his old stomping ground on Friday bidding to prolong his career and end Toulon’s hopes of a seventh straight Top 14 semi-final appearance.

The Lyon half-back was instrumental in Toulon’s most glorious era, helping them win three straight European Champions Cup titles from 2013-15.He also won the 2014 Top 14 title with Toulon, having twice previously claimed it with Toulouse, but will now try to mastermind his former employers’ quarter-final downfall at the Stade Mayol, where he spent four years as a fan favourite.

Michalak is one of 11 former Toulon players among the Lyon contingent, including former scrum-half and current coach Pierre Mignoni. England international full-back Delon Armitage, who is suspended, and injured flanker Virgile Bruni will miss out on homecomings but Lyon will nonetheless be boosted by several players to have won domestic and continental honours with Toulon.

Like Michalak, New Zealand international wing Rudi Wulf won three European crowns in the red shirt, while scrum-half Jonathan Pelissie, wing Alexis Palisson, prop Alexandre Menini and hooker Mickael Ivaldi were on the Toulon books at some point during those years. Lyon are obviously underdogs on Friday having qualified for the post-season for the first time in the professional era.

In fact, the club was second division champions three times in the last seven years and last season was the first time they managed to avoid an immediate return to the lower tier. But boosted by a solid recruitment policy, Lyon were long time leaders this season.

Their form fell away and they had to scrap to reach the play-offs. Even so, Michalak said earlier this month that they had no intention of simply making up the numbers. Michalak will likely have to content himself with a place on the bench on Friday but Mignoni believes he will have an influence.

Lyon have their work cut out against a side boasting numerous international stars such as Argentine back row Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, New Zealand great Ma’a Nonu, South African wing Bryan Habana and France captain Guilhem Guirado.Toulon have been in fine form recently, thrashing Clermont 49-0, beating table-toppers Montpellier 32-17 and trouncing Castres 59-13.

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