Sat, 24 Oct 2020

Former New Zealand under-20s centre Pita Ahki said Toulouse have learnt from last season's European Champions Cup last four defeat to Leinster ahead of travelling to Exeter Chiefs on Sunday.

The record four-time continental champions are 80 minutes away from a sixth final but Premiership leaders Chiefs stand in their way.

"We've made another semi-final this year and we want to push on to the final. Exeter are a big team, probably the best English side at the moment with Saracens," Ahki told AFP.

"We know it's a big task. We've put everything into this week."

Ugo Mola's men only took part in their first training session of the week on Thursday to limit possible coronavirus contact ahead of crossing the Channel after the quarter-final win against Ulster.

Last weekend Castres were disqualified from the second-tier Challenge Cup after recording three cases of the virus among their players and coaches.

"That game on Sunday was pretty tough on our bodies so to have a few extra days off to recover might pay dividends for us in the long run," Ahki said.

"As rugby players you want to be able to train at least two or three days, especially before a semi-final, a big game. But with Covid we have to suck it up and work with what we've got," he added.

Ahki features in an exciting backline alongside France internationals such as Romain Ntamack, Thomas Ramos and Sofiane Guitoune as well as South Africa Rugby World Cup winner Cheslin Kolbe.

"It's unreal. You just want to get the ball to him as early as you can and let him work his magic," Ahki said.

"I know he's the best player in the world at the moment as you saw on the weekend. He has the best feet, and I'm just lucky that he's on my side.

The Auckland-born midfielder wears the same head guard as Springboks' Kolbe and said it causes problems for his family watching on.

"My daughters get mixed up with us a lot, even my partner sometimes," Ahki said.

'Slick' Slade

The ex-Connacht centre is set to face the Chiefs' England midfielder Hendry Slade at Sandy Park.

"Watching him in the last few games they've played he's class. He picks his moments, he's slick," Ahki said.

"They got real good set-plays off their set-piece and he and Jack Nowell set the platform for them. It will be a good match up, I'm looking forward to it. I'm going to keep an eye on him," he added.

Elsewhere this weekend, Top 14 leaders Racing 92 host Saracens in a re-run of the 2016 final but the Parisians will be without Wallabies fullback Kurtley Beale.

England captain Owen Farrell is missing for the visitors, who will be relegated from the Premiership at the end of the season for salary cap breaches.

Fixtures:

Saturday (SA times)

Racing 92 (FRA) v Saracens (ENG) (14:00)

Exeter Chiefs (ENG) v Toulouse (FRA) (16:30)

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