RugbyU: Toulouse look to deny Berbizier glorious farewell

Toulouse have not played like two-time defending Top 14 champions this season but on Friday they will hope that the onset of the play-offs reignites their champion mentality and they dispose of Racing-Metro.

If they do so it will bring to an end the stormy Racing reign of former France and Italy coach -- and club managing director for the past season -- Pierre Berbizier, who revealed this week that he was staying on even though he had effectively been sacked on March 30.

Toulouse's lustre has taken a bit of a battering this season as the record four-time European Cup winners have seen their thunder stolen both domestically and abroad by Clermont and Toulon.

Both of them have the weekend off after finishing first and second respectively in the league while they also contest the European Cup final on May 18 in Dublin.

The other play-off, which is on Saturday, features the third successive meeting at this stage of Castres -- whose coaches Laurent Labit and Laurent Travers will replace Berbizier next season -- and 2011 finalists Montpellier.

Toulouse, who will have been pulled together this week in no uncertain fashion by their legendary manager Guy Noves, will want to prevent both trophies going to one or other club and defy the critics who believe their golden era is at an end.

To do this Toulouse will have to see off the two clubs who are seen as the nouveau riche of the elite in Racing-Metro and then Toulon in the semi-finals.

Toulon, owned by comic book publisher Mourad Boudjellal, and Racing-Metro, owned by Swiss property magnate Jacky Lorenzetti, have seen their success feted less and their players viewed as mercenaries.

Noves -- who has won 12 French championships, two as a player and 10 as manager, all with Toulouse -- said that league form could now be dispensed with as the play-offs had their very own flavour.

"Everyone changes during the week, from the guy who cleans out the dressing rooms to the club president. They are like a chameleon shedding its skin," he told L'Equipe this week.

"The play-offs are a moment when you must have the desire to kill somebody.

"You have to concentrate obsessively, and I mean obsessively, on the smallest detail.

"In the end advancing 50 centimetres or retreating 50 centimetres can be the difference between winning and losing."

Noves, a slippery wing who was capped seven times from 1977-79, said that he hammered into his players that this was a one-off game and therefore they could not afford to let up one moment.

"You either win because you were more determined than your opponent, or you lose and you are on holiday. When I hear 'We will remember that next time' that makes me laugh.

"But yes of course, only that you have to wait at least a year in order to do so," he added.

The 59-year-old, who will have a full squad apart from injured wing and son-in-law Vincent Clerc, and perhaps No8 Louis Picamoles, dismissed the fact that Toulouse had beaten Racing in both their league games this season.

"The last match was down to the last piece of play (try by Clerc on the siren which was converted by Lionel Beauxis for a 27-26 win. So I don't think that counts for much," said Noves.

Toulouse, who lost nine matches in the Top 14 this season -- their worst record since losing 11 in the 2009/10 campaign -- will face a Racing-Metro side whose good end of season form belies the huge internal ructions.

Not only will Berbizier be departing but also their Argentinian coach Gonzalo Quesada -- for bitter Parisian rivals Stade Francais -- while 20 players too look like departing.

Quesada will be hoping that France wing Benjamin Fall recovers from a thigh injury which forced him to miss the last league match although Quesada's compatriot Juan Imhoff should be fit.