Toulon play away at Bourgoin tonight as they look to stay in the top five on the table in the French Top 14. So it's a good time for us to catch up with lock Ross Skeate, as he gives us a bit of a recap of the season so far, talks about All Black centres, and touches on the great progress the side have made lately. What an adventure this season has been then – and yes I use the word ‘adventure’ intentionally. Between all the big name signings of the pre-season to the tough battles on and off the pitch, throw in a few come from behind victories as well as a few lost in the final minutes, I suppose its just been your average rugby season then.
It’s the proverbial roller coaster and with a possibility of a home playoff spot, if we finish well, it seems as though the roller coaster keeps on climbing in anticipation of that stomach-lurching plunge. Let’s hope the inevitable plunge comes when we let our hair down after being crowned champions of France! It’s just fine to be ambitious isn’t it?
Coming into the second part of the season we found ourselves poised more or less where we wanted to be but unfortunately far from safe and sound in the top six, primarily due to a host of other teams also playing so damn well. Tough league – it certainly bloody is.
I mean that is where it’s all at isn't it? Finishing top 6, making a Heineken Cup appearance, more exposure for the club and better business in the long run. Maybe Mourad will meet my 2million euros a year contract suggestion, or was it 3? I forget now. Waiting for that dotted line in anticipation.
Either way, with so many victories under our belt (together with Perpignan we lead the league with 14 wins from our 22 matches) and a year long undefeated record at home injecting some much needed points as well as confidence. If all goes well coming into the final games of the season, we could be running out to a little Pilou-Pilou chanting come playoff time.
It's just a pity that last-minute defeats against Montpellier (20 point turnaround in the second-half) as well as missed opportunities against Castres and Montauban might come back to bite us in the arse. I mean we would be sitting pretty in the top two if it wasn't for those.
But regrets are a slippery slope - I mean there's still that ex-girlfriend I should have avoided! Bygones are bygones and it’s it's all about what's to come.
That all starts with our away game this Friday night against a powerful Bourgoin side who are fighting their own battles to stay afloat in the Top14. That reminds me of the good times of yesteryear when I arrived to the club and we were in the midst of our own relegation battle at the time which of course in retrospect seems crazy that a squad as good as ours had any trouble at all.
A measure of how far we have come and such is the nature of our successes this year, that we are eyeing home playoff and semi-final spots.
It’s always rewarding being part of something and I'm hugely proud of the team’s progression and how big a part I have played in that. Hopefully the team will continue to build and go from success to success from here on in and find ourselves dancing in Stade Mayol after a few more victories.
As mentioned earlier it has been a year since we've lost there, the last time being a final minute drop goal win to Perpignan last season. ‘Fortress’ Mayol is something that we spoke about wanting to establish, it’s obviously not just down to what happens on the pitch though, the crowd are unbelievable and I truly believe have played a significant role in that fine home record.
Of course victories do come with a price though, the latest being Chris Loamanu who suffered a dislocated hip in our last game's victory against Castres. I couldn't think of a crazier and more painful injury and he shall be a big loss to us. The game itself was a huge victory for us as it ensured the final run into the seasons finale would be that much easier.
Well OK it's definitely not going to be easy in any shape or form, but our standing on the table after that now sees us well-placed.
We are lucky enough to have a pretty good medical joker to fill Chris' big shoes though - Tana Umaga, ring any bells? Big guy, played centre for the All Blacks, no – not the one with the eye-liner, the other, better older one.
Oh and there’s that Jonny Wilkinson guy who's returned to the squad this week fresh from his England Six Nations duty. Perhaps he didn’t get the plaudits and took some criticism in the media for his displays for England but he certainly manages to get the exciting backs in our side away, does serious damage both offensively and defensively and of course with the boot as well.
Felipe Contepomi has been standing in for him and has been scintillating, so that augurs well for us as big game players are what’s going to pull us through those tight situations in the season run-in.
Great squad with great ambitions but more importantly even greater potential.
Much Love and here’s to the final push of the season
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Take a look at Skeato's website for more insights, which includes great photos and blog entries about life in Toulon. You can also follow Ross on Twitter at twitter.com/RossSkeate. As the season nears the crunch stage, Ross will keep giving us the rundown on how things are taking shape.
Until his next entry for RD, be sure to visit www.RossSkeate.com.