Preview: La Rochelle v Brive

Date published: February 18 2015

La Rochelle host Brive on Thursday night in a game they simply can't afford to lose if they want to stay in the Top 14 next season.

In their final game before the Six Nations, les Rochelais picked up a vital win at home to Clermont and they'll need more of the same against Brive to move out of the bottom two.

So far this season in the Top 14 only Bordeaux-Bègles have won at the Stade Marcel Deflandre but of their five remaining games, three are against teams currently in the top four.

As a result, a home defeat to Brive would all but condemn them to relegation, so Patrice Collazo will be grateful to have his two French internationals back.

It's an unfamiliar position for La Rochelle, who had not seen two players included in a French squad since the 1960s, but both skipper Uini Atonio and number eight Loann Goujon are included on the bench against Brive. Having spent three weeks away, Collazo decided they might struggle to come straight back into the team, hence their omission from the starting lineup.

Les Coujous have a few returning players of their own, with Benito Masilevu back from a shoulder injury but while he takes his place on the bench, they are sticking on the whole with the players who were so impressive in the 23-0 win over Grenoble last time out.

Collazo, who will be without the suspended Jason Eaton, admits that he admires Brive and their no-frills style.

"I like Brive's rugby," he said. "It might be simple, but they do the basics well. They don't waste time with unnecessary things.

"That's a quality. They are able to create a lot of aggression in the collisions and their mindset from start to finish.

"They are difficult to move around. It will be tight. I've not seen them give up in any gamy. We'll have to be very active at the rucks."

The teams:

La Rochelle: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Alofa Alofa, 13 Malietoa Hingano, 12 Levani Botia, 11 Sireli Bobo, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Julien Audy, 8 Kevin Gourdon, 7 Jone Qovu, 6 Nicolas Djebaili, 5 Leandro Cedaro, 4 Romana Graham, 3 Lekso Kaulashvili, 2 Hikairo Forbes, 1 Vincent Pelo
Replacements: 16 Rassie van Vuuren, 17 Thomas Synaeghel, 18 Cobus Grobler, 19 Loann Goujon, 20 Julien Berger, 21 Eliott Roudil, 22 Jean-Pascal Barraque, 23 Uini Atonio Brive: 15 Gaëtan Germain, 14 Alfi Mafi, 13 Riaan Swanepoel, 12 Chris Tuatara-Morrison, 11 Guillaume Namy, 10 Nicolas Bezy, 9 Damien Neveu, 8 Sisa Koyamaibole, 7 Said Hireche, 6 Petrus Hauman, 5 Arnaud Méla (c), 4 Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 3 Kevin Buys, 2 François Da Ros, 1 Karlen Asieshvili
Replacements: 16 Thomas Acquier, 17 Goderzi Shvelidze, 18 Simon Pinet, 19 Kieran Murphy, 20 Jean-Baptiste Péjoine, 21 Romain Sola, 22 Benito Masilevu, 23 Giorgi Jgenti

Date: Thursday, 19 February
Venue: Stade Marcel Deflandre, La Rochelle
Kick-off: 20:45 local (19:45 GMT)
Referee: Pascal Pechambert