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Chiefs look set to play Toulon in February

The Chiefs have won back to back Super Rugby titles

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Article Published: Monday 2 December 2013

Super Rugby Champions the Chiefs look all set to play Heineken Cup champions Toulon in February as part of their warm up routine for the 2014 season.

The match which is being touted as an unofficial world club playoff is still awaiting the final French sign off and looks set to be played on Sunday the 2nd of February.

The New Zealand Rugby Union have given the go ahead for the match but have put conditions on their agreement around the management of the Chiefs' All Black players.

New Chiefs CEO Andrew Flexman is confident that they will be able to satisfy the All Black coaches, the NZRU high-performance unit and the New Zealand Rugby Players Association.

While the Chiefs are planning for the 2014 Super Rugby season they are waiting for the final signed contract from Toulon, as well as official approval from the relevant French administrative bodies.

"It's looking very promising but there is not yet an unconditional green light because there is just a bit more detail to be worked through in terms of written approvals required from the likes of the FFR (French Rugby Federation) and the LNR (organisers of France's Top 14 national championship)," Flexman told Fairfax Media.

"We've had the verbal assurances we're needing around that sort of stuff but for whatever reason, the French being the French, things aren't moving quite as quickly as we would like.

"But it's probably fair to say that we're preparing within this organisation as if we are all go."

The Chiefs plan to take a 35 strong squad of players and management to France on the 25th of January and with just under two months to go they are working hard to finalise details.

The Chiefs have been working with the All Black coaches on ways to reintroduce their Test players back into rugby next year while billionaire Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal wants the Chiefs to field all of their All Blacks.

"That's not to say they all will play. That will be very much a horses-for-courses thing."

Players such as Brodie Retallick and Liam Messam have both played a lot of top level rugby over the last two years and could be rested for the match.

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie has now set his sights on his team winning a third Super Rugby title so he wants to give them the best possible chance to achieve this and the financial benefits of an all expenses paid trip to France and match fee from Toulon will have to be weighed up against the bigger goal for 2014.

"There's a lot of detail to be worked through there but we think it can be the right thing. The players are hugely motivated about it and we think the fact it is something different will be motivating.

"Secondly there is an amazing commercial opportunity for us, and that is probably our secondary consideration, to be honest, but it is attractive and within the organisation, player group, coaching group and administrative staff there is a huge amount of enthusiasm around it - it's pretty exciting," Flexman said.

The Chiefs have already started talking to the IRB about the appointment of neutral officials for the match which will not carry an official title.

Rennie says that they need to balance the desire to win an unofficial world club title while also ensuring that they do not peak too early in Super Rugby.

"For us it's more about the first leg in our pre-season, but having said that I don't wish to understate the significance of the game and we'll be going over there to win it," said Rennie.

"But we are pretty confident the various challenges can be managed."

Super Rugby warm up matches are usually played in quarters and Toulon are unlikely to allow these although the Chiefs are hoping to have a larger-than-normal reserves bench.

After the unofficial world club playoff match the Chiefs wll fly to Australia for their second pre-season fixture against the Reds in Toowoomba on Saturday, February the 8th.

This means a six day turnaround for the Chiefs who will have to cope with the travel, change of time zones and going from winter to hot summer conditions.

The Chiefs also play a warm up match against Blues in Rotorua on Friday February the 14th.

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