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Rupert Wyman 21st May 2010 - 13:04

Wales' European final Blues to continue

A Welsh side has never won a European final and this year the Cardiff Blues have the chance to alter that record as they take on France's Toulon in the European Challenge Cup final in Marseille.

Two of the three losses by Welsh sides in finals have been inflicted by French sides so Toulon are bidding to make it a French hat-trick.

Not only do the Blues have the weight of history and a nation on their shoulders they face a Toulon side that is packed full of stars.

In addition the final will be like an away match for the Welsh side as Marseille is just down the road from Toulon so the Stade Velodrome will be full of Toulon fans.

The latter factor may not be such a big deal for Cardiff though as they have won their last eight away matches.

Nevertheless the talent in Toulon's ranks should be too much for the Blues to overcome and therefore I am backing the French side at 1/2 to end their winning run on the road.

Toulon will be hoping for a great end to their season following last weekend's crushing Top 14 semi-final defeat in extra time against Clermont Auvergne.

Following that loss Philippe Saint-Andre has made a few changes to his starting XV including replacing Tana Umaga on the wing with Jeremy Sinzelle.

In the Clermont match a certain Jonny Wilkinson kicked 19 points but it wasn't enough. Since his move across the English Channel last summer Wilkinson has put his injuries behind him and had a fine season in France.

As always Wilko can be expected to keep the scoreboard ticking over for Toulon during the match which if Cardiff are unable to break them down quickly enough will put an enormous amount of pressure on the Welsh side as the points gap between the teams will continue to increase.

Conversely Dai Young's side are without a reliable goal-kicker in their side and must be counting down the days until Dan Parks completes his switch from Glasgow.

It is this inability to convert their penalties that I think will cost Cardiff dear in Marseille.

As a result I can not only see Toulon winning the match but also on the handicap as well. The main line gives Cardiff a five-point start and Toulon at 10/11 is the bet for me.

A winning margin of 6-10 points looks a fair shout at 9/2 but if Gabi Lovobalavu has his try-scoring boots on then the result could be by an even greater margin for Toulon.

The Fijian winger has scored six tries in this year's European Challenge Cup and can be backed at 10/1 to score the first at the Stade Velodrome.

For me though the first scoring play of the game looks nailed on to be a Jonny Wilkinson penalty (13/8).

Unfortunately for Cardiff it could turn out to be a long afternoon in southern France as their European dream could turn in to yet another disappointment for a Welsh side in a European final.



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