PARIS, Nov 7 AFP -Australian five-eighth Quade Cooper enjoyed the ideal introduction to the Top 14 as he steered Toulon to a 52-8 thrashing of Montpellier on Saturday.
Cooper flourished behind a dominant pack, Fijian winger Josua Tuisova scoring a second-half hat-trick as the home side ran in eight tries to one for a well-deserved bonus point.
“I’m very excited to be here and to start off with a win like that you can only dream of,” 27-year-old Cooper said, adding that the renowned electric atmosphere in and around Toulon on match day had lived up to his reputation.
“Personally I’ve been in some big games, but that was very special.”
Cooper added: “As a team we had ambitions and the goal to go out there and win with a bonus point. The way we went about that was to play a hard game at the start and then use the backs.
“I’m not saying it was a surprise but it was something we worked all week to achieve.”
Cooper was little used by the Wallabies in the World Cup, but showed few signs of rustiness in his first run-out for the three-time European champions.
His genius and fallibility were both on show in the first-half, a no-look grubber setting up the second of Lachie Turner’s tries but a forced one-handed sling pass leading to Montpellier’s intercept try through Julien Malzieu.
Toulon might have been missing the likes of Bryan Habana, Matt Giteau, Drew Mitchell, Ma’a Nonu, Leigh Halfpenny, Duane Vermuelen, Paul O’Connell, Frederic Michalak and James O’Connor, but they could still afford to field a star-studded team packed with experienced internationals.
Bernard Laporte named nine foreigners in his starting Toulon line-up, Montpellier coach Jake White plumping for a staggering 11.
There were a further eight foreigners on both benches in a sharp realisation of the globalisation of the Top 14, where clubs are funded by multi-millionaire owners.
In this case it involves Mourad Boudjellal, who has bankrolled the star-studded Toulon team through the millions made from his comic book empire, and Mohed Altrad, who made his millions in scaffolding and cement after a tough early life that saw him start out as a bedouin in the Syrian desert.
In an ironic twist, even the referee was a foreigner: Argentinian Juan Silvestre officiated the game in English.
He showed Montpellier’s Australian captain Ben Mowen a yellow for a ruck infringement early on in Saturday’s match.