Preview: La Rochelle v Castres

Date published: September 12 2014

When the season started most people would have expected La Rochelle to be down at the bottom of the Top 14 after four weeks.

When the season started most people would have expected La Rochelle to be down at the bottom of the Top 14 after four weeks.

The same cannot be said of Castres, with last year's runners-up languishing in 12th place having lost three of their first four matches.

The 2013 champions were undone first up at home to Stade Français, and a comfortable win over Bayonne was sandwiched by two crushing defeats on the road.

That means that Castres simply have to win on Friday night, but as Toulouse found out a fortnight ago, La Rochelle are an entirely different proposition on home soil.

The promoted side produced a stunning second-half display to beat Toulouse at the Stade Marcel Deflandre, and they will be hoping an improved set-piece can really put the pressure on Castres.

For the visitors, the problems have come both in attack and defence, with only La Rochelle conceding more points, and only Racing Métro scoring fewer.

Those stats are distorted somewhat by last week's hammering at Montpellier where Castres played the best part of 70 minutes with a man fewer after Johnnie Beattie's red card, but they were already 10-0 down when the Scottish international was sent off.

The scrum has been a real problem for Castres, in the absence of Ramiro Herrera and the injured Karena Wihongi, but until they return there is not much that can be done to solve that problem.

It's not yet time to panic, and reports in the French press likening their struggles to the demise of Biarritz seem a touch premature, but this looks like the perfect game for Castres to launch their season.

All the moreso because the five games that follow will all be against teams that finished in the bottom half of the Top 14 table last year, as well as ProD2 champions Lyon, making a rapid turnaround a very real possibility.

For La Rochelle this is the first of four home games in their next six, with Bordeaux-Bègles, Lyon and Montpellier all visiting Marcel Deflandre over the next couple of months.

A win would also get them off the bottom of the Top 14 for the first time this season, while defeat could leave them five points from safety already at this early stage of the season.

The teams:

La Rochelle: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Alofa Alofa, 13 Jean-Pascal Barraque, 12 Levani Botia, 11 Sireli Bobo, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Julien Audy, 8 Jone Qovu, 7 Kevin Gourdon, 6 Romain Sazy, 5 Cobus Grobler, 4 Jason Eaton, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Hika Forbes, 1 Thomas Synaeghel
Replacements: 16 Rassie van Vuuren, 17 Mike Corbel, 18 Leandro Cedaro, 19 Nicolas Djebaili, 20 Julien Berger, 21 Hamish Gard, 22 Charles Lagarde, 23 Lekso Kaulashvili

Castres: 15 Julien Dumora, 14 Didier Combezou, 13 Remi Lamerat, 12 Romain Cabannes, 11 Remy Grosso, 10 Remi Tales (c), 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Jannie Bornman, 7 Yannick Caballero, 6 Piula Fa'aselele, 5 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Paea Fa'anunu, 2 Brice Mach, 1 Mihaita Lazar
Replacements: 16 Mathieu Bonello, 17 Saimone Taumoepeau, 18 Christophe Samson, 19 Ibrahim Diarra, 20 Cedric Garcia, 21 Romain Martial, 22 Dan Kirkpatrick, 23 Yohan Montes

Date: Friday, September 12
Venue: Stade Marcel Deflandre
Kick-off: 20.45 local (19.45 GMT)
Referee: Sébastien Minery
Assistant referees: Thomas Charabas, Christophe Malterre