The Premiership and PRO12 take the week off leaving the Top 14 to take centre stage this weekend.
La Rochelle’s trip to Toulon headlines the Top 14 fixtures as this season’s surprise package bid to keep their run at the top of the table going.
Let’s see who will come out on top.
Toulon v La Rochelle
Fifth hosts second in the Top 14 and Toulon have work to do, trailing their visitors on Saturday by nine points. Were it for not for La Rochelle’s three draws this season, a league high, then they might even be topping the table heading into February ahead of Clermont.
One of those draws was actually against Toulon at home back at the start of October, when Toulon fly-half Pierre Bernard snatched a draw in the last minute with a long-range penalty.
Those waiting for the La Rochelle bubble to burst may well pinpoint Saturday’s trip to the Stade Félix Mayol as the moment they trip up, except this squad feels incredibly settled. And their success is actually a problem given that their two best props, Uini Atonio and Mohamed Boughanmi, are away with France this weekend.
Toulon however showed signs in their away defeat to Saracens that with Richard Cockerill whipping the pack into shape that the tide might be about to turn. Toulon to squeeze home by three points.
Bordeaux-Bègles v Clermont
The league leaders have not won on the road in the Top 14 since October 30, when they came with a bonus-point victory away to Brive, which makes this trip to the Stade Chaban-Delmas a tricky proposition.
Consecutive away defeats came to Bayonne, Pau and Toulouse, but, Clermont did edge out UBB when these two teams met recently in the group stages of the Champions Cup, with that tense battle ending in a 9-6 win for les Jaunards which proved pivotal to them securing one of the top seeds.
Where Clermont will be hindered this weekend is by the absence of eight internationals away with France, plus Wesley Fofana whose season is now over.
UBB also suffer in that regard with no Baptiste Serin or Loann Goujon, albeit to a lesser extent, and that might prove to be the key as they look to climb up the table as they target a first league win since mid-November. UBB by five.
Other Top 14 predictions:
Castres v Montpellier: Montpellier by 6
Grenoble v Stade Français: Grenoble by 3
Toulouse v Pau: Toulouse by 8
Lyon v Racing 92: Lyon by 6
Bayonne v Brive: Brive by 3