Top 14 Preview: Round 18

Date published: March 12 2016

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The Six Nations is ongoing but the Top 14 charges on regardless with a couple of big derbies this weekend.

The Paris derby on Saturday sees Stade Français try to stave off a relegation battle against the leaders Racing.

Then a revitalized Clermont host Brive while La Rochelle entertain Pau. Castres will look to get back into the play-off hunt at home to Agen before Toulon’s evening kick-off against Grenoble.

Finally a seemingly doomed Oyonnax host Montpellier on Sunday.

Friday

Toulouse 13-13 Bordeaux-Bègles

Saturday

Stade Français v Racing 92
Clermont v Brive
La Rochelle v Pau
Castres v Agen
Toulon v Grenoble

Sunday

Oyonnax v Montpellier


Stade Français v Racing 92
Stade Jean Bouin, Paris

The Paris derby is a huge event, particularly with the defending champions battling relegation but it’s hard to see anything other than a Racing victory.

Stade have some of their French internationals back, including Jonathan Danty, but they are still hampered by the Six Nations.

Racing are also missing players but have such incredible depth that they are able to cope, particularly with a certain Dan Carter pulling the strings.

They will fancy their chances of surprising Stade here and cementing their place at the top of the table.

Stade Français: 15 Djibril Camara, 14 Waisea Nayacalevu Vuidravuwalu, 13 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Jeremy Sinzelle, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Julien Dupuy, 8 Jono Ross, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Sylvain Nicolas, 5 Pascal Papé, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Laurent Sempere, 1 Zak Taulafo 
Replacements: 16 Remy Bonfils, 17 Emmanuel Felsina, 18 Gerhard Mostert, 19 Patrick Sio, 20 Julien Tomas, 21 Meyer Bosman, 22 Hugo Bonneval, 23 Adrien Oleon

Racing 92: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Alexandre Dumoulin, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Antonie Claassen, 7 Luc Barba, 6 Yannick Nyanga Kabasele, 5 Francois van der Merwe, 4 Juandre Kruger, 3 Luc Ducalcon, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski,1 Julien Brugnaut
Replacements: 16 Virgile Lacombe,  17 Khatchik, Vartanov,  18 Thibault Dubarry,  19 Chris Masoe,  20 Xavier Chauveau,  21 Johan Goosen,  22 Albert Vulivuli,  23 Cedate Gomes Sa

Last year’s result: Stade won 23-19
Kick-off: 14:30 local (13:30 GMT)
Referee: Pascal Gauzère


Clermont v Brive
Stade Marcel Michelin, Clermont

Clermont produced arguably the performance of the season last time out against Grenoble and will be hoping for more of the same against local rivals Brive.

They are without a few key players, including recalled French duo Wesley Fofana and Scott Spedding, but in Noa Nakaitaci and Morgan Parra they have two players with a point to prove.

The former will start at 12 against Brive and should be a real threat in midfield.

Brive are just starting to fall away, and would have been even further off the pace but for Sébastien Bézy’s missed conversion last week.

Still it’s been a successful season overall, and if they could top it off with a derby win in Clermont, they’ll take it.

Clermont: 15 Isaia Toeava, 14 David Strettle, 13 Aurélien Rougerie,12 Noa Nakaitaci, 11 Alivereti Raka, 10 Brock James, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Peceli Yato, 7 Alexandre Lapandry, 6 Camille Gerondeau, 5 Loïc Jacquet, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Dan Kotze, 2 John Ulugia,1 Raphael Chaume
Replacements: 16 Pellow van der Westhuizen, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Paul Jedrasiak, 19 Julien Bardy, 20 Ludovic Radosavljevic, 21 Patricio Fernandez, 22 Setariki Tuicuvu, 23 Clement Ric

Brive: 15 Gaetan Germain, 14 Alfi Mafi, 13 Thomas Laranjeira, 12 Sevenaia Galala,11 Benito Masilevu, 10 Matthieu Ugalde, 9 Jean-Baptiste Pejoine, 8 Sisa Koyamaibole, 7 Said Hireche, 6 Petrus Gherardus Hauman, 5 Peet Marais, 4 Johan Snyman, 3 Damien Jourdain, 2 Thomas Acquier, 1 Goderdzi Shvelidze
Replacements: 16 Guillaume Ribes, 17 Kevin Buys, 18 Arnaud Mela, 19 Fabien Sanconnie, 20 Poutasi Luafutu, 21 Nicolas Bezy, 22 Arnaud Mignardi, 23 Giorgi Jgenti

Last year’s result: Clermont won 44-20
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Adrien Descottes


La Rochelle v Pau
Stade Marcel Deflandre, La Rochelle

There will be a sombre atmosphere in La Rochelle this week where Pau arrive in mourning. 

Pau second row Damien Fèvre passed away on Friday after a short battle with cancer at the age of just 31.

He had started the season with Pau, and even played against Grenoble in September before being diagnosed.

It marks a horrible week for Pau who also lost former president Andre Lestorte who passed away on the same day.

With that in mind, the match at La Rochelle will be a very subdued one.

La Rochelle: 15 Pierre Berard, 14 Gabriel Lacroix, 13 Pierre Aguillon, 12 Lepani Botia Veivuke, 11 Kini Murimurivalu, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Julien Audy, 8 Kevin Gourdon, 7 Jason Eaton, 6 Romana Graham, 5 Leandro Cedaro, 4 Jone Qovu Nailiko, 3 Gagi Bazadze, 2 Maxime Gau, 1 Thomas Synaeghel
Replacements: 16 Hikairo Forbes, 17 Jordan Seneca, 18 Damien Lagrange, 19 Zeno Kieft, 20 Afaesetiti Amosa, 21 Ricky Januarie, 22 Mali Hingano, 23 David Fe'ao

Pau: 15 Charly Malie, 14 Sireli Bobo, 13 Jale Vatubua, 12 Watisoni Votu, 11 Mosese Ratuvou, 10 Santiago Fernandez, 9 Thibault Daubagna, 8 Brice Monzeglio, 7 Jovili Domolailai, 6 Loic Bernad, 5 Abdellatif Boutaty, 4 Cameron Pierce, 3 Giorgi Natsarashvili, 2 Thomas Bianchin, 1 Julien Jacquot
Replacements: 16 Quentin Lespiaucq, 17 Geoffrey Moise, 18 Giovanni Kueffner, 19 Paddy Butler, 20 Clovis Lebail, 21 Brandon Fajardo, 22 Julien Fumat, 23 Euan Murray

Previous result: La Rochelle won 35-18 in 2014 in Pro D2
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Sébastien Minery


Castres v Agen
Stade Pierre Antoine, Castres

Castres were left fuming at their loss to Montpellier last weekend, with Christophe Urios adamant his team deserved more than a losing bonus point.

It left them with a lot of work to get back into the play-off race, but a home clash with Agen could help.

Sitting 11 points from safety, relegation looks to have been wrapped up already this season but Agen could keep the suspense going with a win or two on the road.

A home loss would all but end Castres’ top six hopes. They are currently seven points behind Montpellier having won eight and lost eight and only a very strong finish would get them back in the hunt. 

Castres: 15 Geoffrey Palis, 14 Julien Caminati, 13 Florian Vialelle, 12 Rémi Lamerat, 11 David Smith, 10 Ben Urdapilleta, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Johnnie Beattie, 7 Piula Faasalele, 6 Yannick Caballero, 5 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 4 Alexandre Bias, 3 Karena Wihongi, 2 Marc-Antoine Rallier, 1 Antoine Tichit
Replacements: 16 Brice Mach, 17 Yohan Montes, 18 Benjamin Desroches, 19 Alex Tulou, 20 Julien Seron, 21 Julien Dumora, 22 Thomas Combezou,23 Mihai Lazar

Agen: 15 Mathieu Lamoulie, 14 George Tilsley, 13 Julien Heriteau, 12 Lionel Mazars, 11 Filipo Nakosi, 10 Burton Francis, 9 Clement Darbo, 8 Luke Hamilton, 7 Sione Tau, 6 Marco Kotze, 5 William Demotte, 4 Api Ratuniyarawa, 3 Dave Ryan, 2 Jalil Narjissi, 1 Viliamu Afatia
Replacements: 16 Marc Barthomeuf, 17 Giorgi Tetrashvili, 18 Denis Marchois, 19 Antoine Miquel, 20 Alexis Bales, 21 François Bouvier, 22 Vincent Roux, 23 Arthur Joly

Previous result: Castres won 20-9 in 2013
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Tual Trainini


Toulon v Grenoble
Stade Félix Mayol, Toulon

Toulon were upset at La Rochelle last week as they let a lead slip, but on home soil they are much tougher to beat.

Grenoble will need to bounce back from a humbling loss at home to Clermont, but a trip to Mayol doesn’t seem to be the place to do it.

Fabrice Estebanez is the only survivor from the Grenoble team that lost to Clermont as they try to shake things up.

But Toulon have such depth, and are relatively unaffected by the Six Nations so should prove too strong. 

Toulon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Tom Taylor, 9 Jonathan Pélissié, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Juan Smith, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Mamuka Gorgodze, 3 Manasa Saulo Romumu, 2 Jean-Charles Orioli, 1 Florian Fresia
Replacements: 16 Iuri Natriashvili, 17 Alexandre Menini, 18 Jocelino Suta, 19 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, 20 Théo Belan, 21 Frédéric Michalak, 22 Éric Escande, 23 Levan Chilachava

Grenoble: 15 Fabien Gengenbacher, 14 Lucas Dupont, 13 Xavier Mignot, 12 Fabrice Estebanez, 11 Daniel Kilioni, 10 Clement Gelin, 9 Christophe Loustalot, 8 Steven Setephano, 7 Mahamadou Diaby, 6 Peter Kimlin, 5 James Percival, 4 Mathias Marie, 3 Walter Desmaison, 2 Loïck Jammes, 1 Sona Taumalolo
Replacements: 16 Laurent Bouchet,17 Denis Coulson, 18 Hendrik Roodt, 19 Fabien Alexandre, 20 James Hart, 21 Robinson Caire, 22 Maritino Nemani, 23 Dayna Edwards

Last year’s result: Toulon won 61-28
Kick-off: 20:45 local (19:45 GMT)
Referee: Maxime Chalon


Oyonnax v Montpellier
Stade Charles Mathon, Oyonnax

Bottom side Oyonnax have one foot in Pro D2, a home defeat to Montpellier would all but seal their fate.

It’s been tough for the surprise package of last season, but they lost so many key contributors, including their coaching staff, and they just haven’t been able to cope.

Montpellier meanwhile, are looking increasingly comfortable in the top six.

And while they are probably going to have to do it the hard way if they do make the playoffs, Jake White’s team has plenty of experience of big games.

Oyonnax: tbc

Agen: tbc

Last year’s result: Oyonnax won 20-13
Kick-off: 12:00 local (11:00 GMT)
Referee: Cedric Marchat

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