Heineken Cup 2014: Toulon vs. Saracens Predictions and Live Stream Info

James DudkoFeatured ColumnistMay 24, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 28:  Mathieu Bastareaud of Toulon runs with the ball during the Heineken Cup semi final match between Saracens and Toulon at Twickenham Stadium on April 28, 2013 in London, United Kingdom.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
David Rogers/Getty Images

The 2014 Heineken Cup final appears to be Toulon's to lose, but don't count on a stubborn Saracens outfit simply standing aside. Yet Saracens face a tall order attempting to stop Toulon's recent dominance of the competition.

The key could well be the former's ability to face down the physical challenge posed by Toulon's gigantic and intimidating collection of forwards. That is sure to be a massive test of Saracens' defensive resolve.

At least Saracens can be boosted by the timely return of their on-pitch leader. Here are some predictions for this year's final, along with important information about where you can catch a live stream.


Steve Borthwick will deliver a memorable performance in final game

Saracens captain Steve Borthwick has managed to recover from a pectoral injury to be fit for his team's biggest game of the season, per London Evening Standard reporter Chris Jones.

Steve Borthwick will make a timely return for Saracens.
Steve Borthwick will make a timely return for Saracens.David Rogers/Getty Images

Aside from the importance to Sarries, this also happens to be Borthwick's final game before retirement. The ageing skipper is sure to be determined to cap his playing days with a real flourish.

But it won't just be about a glorious swansong for Borthwick. The 34-year-old will have a key role to play in helping Saracens resist the overpowering strength that defines Toulon's game.


Toulon's forwards will eventually dominate

It's no secret that Toulon wins via the physical intimidation of their forward line. That plan won't change against Saracens.

The same group of forwards will eventually dominate proceedings in this final. As usual, Toulon will stay consistent with power, hoping that it will tell in the latter stages, a pattern identified by Sky Sports analyst Scott Quinnell:

No matter who Toulon pick in the forwards they are going to be massive. Toulon look to grind sides down through their forwards. There are some very cagey operators in this Toulon side and I think the front row will certainly be targeting Mako Vunipola and Matt Stevens when he comes on.


Saracens will keep Jonny Wilkinson quiet

Of course, Borthwick isn't the only high-profile player about to trudge off into the sunset. Toulon No. 10 Jonny Wilkinson will soon join him.

Borthwick will be eager to ensure Wilkinson's last appearance in this final is a quiet one. It's a tough task, but one a defensive-minded Saracens team can manage.

Keeping Jonny Wilkinson quiet will be crucial for Saracens.
Keeping Jonny Wilkinson quiet will be crucial for Saracens.David Rogers/Getty Images

Writing for The Guardian, Dean Ryan explains why Wilkinson might struggle to exert his usual influence on this game:

The challenge is obvious. Saracens’ crowded gain line leaves the full-back Alex Goode to cover an enormous amount of space; Wilkinson has to find those spaces and sew seeds of doubt in Saracens’ minds.

Nick Evans did well in the first half last Saturday but Saracens are unlikely to repeat the generosity of having two men in the sin-bin, so Wilkinson will rely heavily on a fast, precise service from his scrum-half. That’s part of the problem – were Pierre Mignoni still doing the job, rather than coaching, then I’d have no doubt. However, the man in the No9 shirt is now Sébastien Tillous-Borde and one has to hope, for Toulon’s sake, that mentor leaves pupil in no doubt that he should leave the decision-making to the man standing outside him.

Ryan's point is well taken, in that Wilkinson thrives when he has a functional carrier next to him, prepared to let him handle the creative efficiency. However, Toulon have gotten this far with Tillous-Borde as Wilkinson's minder, so there's no reason to suppose that dynamic should suddenly break down.

One way Sarries can cause a break might be to let a midfield contingent of Brad Barritt and Owen Farrell swarm around Wilkinson. Saracens usually like to defend areas of the pitch, overloading avenues with bodies.

The kicking battle between Owen Farrell and Jonny Wilkinson will be key.
The kicking battle between Owen Farrell and Jonny Wilkinson will be key.Getty Images/Getty Images

But speeding up Wilkinson's decision-making process by swarming to the ball may force some errors from a player so often synonymous with composure under pressure.

Saracens have the defensive resources to keep Wilkinson shackled at crucial times and let Farrell win the vital kicking duel.


Final Prediction: Toulon 21-12 Saracens


Live Stream Info: Saturday May 24

UK: Sky Go 5 p.m. BST

U.S.: Fox On Demand 12 p.m. ET