Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Toulouse Olympique have been big spenders off the field as they aim to make their long awaited Super League dream a reality. In what is set to be his tenth year as head coach, Sylvain Houles’ team is taking shape as we take a look at how the French side will line up in 2021.
Full-back: Mark Kheirallah
An obvious choice. Mark Kheirallah has scored over 1350 points so far for the club since joining from the Sydney Roosters in 2012. His support play and speed has been fantastic and it is no coincidence he is known as “the killer”.
Wingers: Jy Hitchcox & Paul Marcon
Jy Hitchcox has experience in professional rugby league across both hemispheres, his most notable time includes playing for both West Yorkshire rivals Featherstone Rovers and Castleford Tigers, scoring plenty of tries between them. Paul Marcon has been at the club since 2013, helping them to glory over in France before promotion to the Championship in England.
Centres: Junior Vaivai & Bastien Ader
Having endured a rather limiting career, Junior Vaivai has shown promise at the French side. He did produce some good rugby for former club Hull Kingston Rovers and though his injuries have gotten the better of him, we may still see the best out of him under a new boss. Bastien Ader is all set for his 11th season at the club, having helped Toulouse to two French Elite titles as well as promotion to the Championship. Similar to Vaivai, he knows his way to the try line and will fancy his chances in back-to-back World Cups come October.
Stand-off: Jonathan Ford
The Australian Jonathan Ford is their ‘go to’ man. The 31-year-old has been a long serving player at the club, having assisted in many of their tries, with his ability to control and dictate the game has made Toulouse an extremely dangerous outfit.
Scrum-half: Ben Reynolds
Playing for up to seven previous English clubs, Ben Reynolds is now attempting his trade across the channel. His time at Leigh Centurions was prominent; helping them up to Super League back in 2016, his skill, combined with Ford’s, could very well be the missing ingredient Toulouse have lacked in their bid for top-flight rugby.
Props: Remi Casty & Mitch Garbutt
Easy choice. Remi Casty has had 14 seasons with rival club Catalans Dragons, even featuring in the Super League Dream Team twice. Mitch Garbutt was met with praise during his time at Leeds Rhinos and Hull Kingston Rovers, averaging over 100 metres per game multiple times.
Hooker: Lloyd White
After a decade between Crusaders RL and Widnes Vikings, Welshman Lloyd White is ready for his second year in Toulouse. His consistency, organisation and work rate with his forward pack will help the French side remain tough to handle.
Second-row: Andrew Dixon & Dominique Peyroux
Weird reading if you are a St Helens fan! Andrew Dixon transferred from the late Toronto Wolfpack, having helped them as well as previous club Leigh get promoted into Super League. Peyroux’s departure and signing was met with mixed reviews. His tenacity and skill has made him a tough opponent, no doubt something he will repeat for his new club.
Loose-forward: Anthony Marion
The home grown and consistent Anthony Marion completes the starting 13. He has made over 100 appearances for the club, scoring plenty of tries, not to mention being a part of their success since starting back in 2014.
The controversial yet skilful Eloi Pelissier is on the bench. His impact when coming on has seen him change games for the better; offering his speed from the play-the-ball will give Toulouse an advantage going forward.
Another ‘old dog’ still going strong is Harrison Hansen. The Samoan international has enjoyed a successful career, having won silverware with Wigan and even Leigh – his experience and work rate easily earns him a spot.
One of the many of Wigan’s highly successful academy, Joe Bretherton is set for his third year with the club. His back up offers Toulouse welcoming energy when entering the field, having had the ability to change the game for them more than once.
11 years down under, two with St Helens, Joseph Paulo is the final choice. Not forgetting his international experience with Samoa and the USA, we may see the best out of him under a new coach.