Bernard Laporte warned Toulon were expecting an explosive debut from World Cup-winner Ma’a Nonu in his first match for the Top 14 FRench rugby side against Agen on Saturday.
The New Zealand centre lines up just over a week after his arrival at the three-time European champions and expectations are high in southern France.
Coach Laporte said he had met Nonu for the first time this week and believed the veteran could act as a motor to power the team further ahead after last weekend’s 35-9 thumping of leaders Clermont.
“Like (Matt) Giteau here or (Dan) Carter in Paris, we expect players like this (Nonu) to help pull everyone towards the top,” said former France coach Laporte.
“I didn’t know him, we never met before,” said Laporte.
“We’re just getting to know each other. He’s someone with a lot of humility and seems very likeable. You can tell he’s a good guy.”
South African flanker Duane Vermeulen said he was expecting the 33-year-old All Black to find his feet soon.
“He’s shy like New Zealanders are sometimes but little by little he’s opening up,” said Vermeulen.
Nonu will link with France centre Mathieu Bastareaud, also fresh from extending his contract for five years, in an explosive combination sure to intimidate their lowly rivals.
Nonu’s arrival has shaken up the Toulon personnel with Maxime Mermoz rested for the first time this season.
Wallaby Matt Giteau starts at No.10 while fellow Australians Drew Mitchell and James O’Connor are on the wings.
Quade Cooper has been named on the bench for Toulon.