Preview: Montpellier v Castres

Date published: September 5 2014

The fourth week of Top 14 action begins in Montpellier, as the playoff contenders take on back-to-back finalists Castres.

The fourth week of Top 14 action begins in Montpellier, as the playoff contenders take on back-to-back finalists Castres.

It's been a tough start to the season for the visitors, who have only picked up one win from their opening three matches.

That though came in convincing fashion last weekend with a 30-6 thrashing of Bayonne at the Stade Pierre Antoine.

The 2013 champions are gradually adapting to life without some of their key men in recent times, after Antoine Claassen and Brice Dulin joined the seemingly neverending route of players, and coaches, leaving the club for Racing Métro.

Castres were pipped at home by Stade Français in the opening round before Toulouse took them to pieces, making last week's win over Bayonne absolutely essential.

Sitiveni Sivivatu's early absence was a cruel blow especially with Dulin now in Paris, but Julien Dumora (signed from Lyon) has stepped in and scored last weekend.

Sivivatu's medical joker replacement, Chris Tuatara-Morrison, gets a start at inside centre where he'll be partnered by Thomas Combezou.

The major absence though for Castres is that of captain Rémi Talès. Subject to increased speculation this week over a possible move to Racing Métro to replace Jonathan Sexton next season, he misses out this week and is replaced by Daniel Kirkpatrick.

Jannie Bornman and Ibrahim Diarra round out the changes as they come into the back-row to partner Scotland international Johnnie Beattie.

Montpellier meanwhile have started the season well, winning two of their first three games including last week's shock success at the Stade Marcel Michelin.

François Trinh-Duc's drop goal at the death condemned Clermont to only their second loss at home in four years, with the France international looking in excellent touch so far this year.

Fabien Galthié's men will be out for revenge after last year's Top 14 semi-final defeat, with some familiar faces now in Castres colours after Combezou, Beattie and Paea Fa'anunu all joined the club for this season.

Before surprising Clermont, Montpellier were pipped at home in Round One by Racing before holding off the challenge of Grenoble a week later.

The backs have been reshuffled for the visit of Castres, as Rene Ranger and Wynand Olivier form a new centre pairing with Lucas Dupont coming into the left wing.

Benjamin Fall, a signing from Racing, continues at full-back with other new signings Ben Mowen, Tom Donnelly and Chris King all taking their places in the pack.

Mowen's first match since leaving Australia and the Brumbies last weekend was a success, with the former Wallabies skipper facing up the challenge of replacing cult hero Mamuka Gorgodze.

Montpellier's key man though so far has been Trinh-Duc. The 27-year-old seems destined for a France recall in November based on his form over the opening rounds, showing solid composure to land two drops goals including the winner against Clermont.

With the narrow loss to Racing in the back of their mind, Montpellier will be looking to reinforce their home ground with another win to take them to three in a row. The loss of Nicolas Mas however is a blow.

Montpellier: 15 Benjamin Fall, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Lucas Dupont, 10 François Trinh-Duc, 9 Jonathan Pélissié, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Kélian Galletier, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo (c), 5 Sitaleki Timani, 4 Tom Donnelly, 3 Chris King, 2 Mickaël Ivaldi, 1 Misha Nariashvili
Replacements: 16 Thomas Bianchin, 17 Yvan Watremez, 18 Thibaut Privat, 19 Alex Tulou, 20 Benoît Paillaugue, 21 Pierre Bérard, 22 Robert Ebersohn, 23 Na'ama Leleimalefaga

Castres: 15 Julien Dumora, 14 Max Evans, 13 Thomas Combezou, 12 Chris Tuatara-Morrison, 11 Marcel Garvey, 10 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 John Beattie, 7 Ibrahim Diarra, 6 Jannie Bornman, 5 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Yohan Montes, 2 Brice Mach, 1 Saimone Taumoepeau
Replacements: 16 Marc-Antoine Rallier, 17 Mihaita Lazar, 18 Christophe Samson, 19 Piula Fa'aselele, 20 Cédric Garcia, 21 Louis Decrop, 22 Rémy Grosso, 23 Paea Fa'anunu

Date: Friday, September 5
Venue: Altrad Stadium
Kickoff: 20:45 (local, 19:45 GMT)
Referee: Mathieu Raynal
Assistant Referees: Salem Attalah, Patrick Beuriot
TMO: Bruno Bessot