Preview: Top 14, Round 21

Date published: March 28 2015

The Six Nations is over and there are a couple of huge games in the Top 14 this weekend with top spot on the line in Paris and Marseille.

Stade Français host Clermont before Toulon welcome Toulouse in games that could decide who finishes top of the table, but there is just as much riding on games elsewhere.

Bottom two Lyon and Castres are both away, at Montpellier and Grenoble respectively, while Bayonne have a huge game at home to Racing-Métro on Friday night.

Finally Oyonnax can continue their impressive campaign at home to Brive, while Bordeaux-Bègles will look to get back on track against La Rochelle.

Bayonne v Racing-Métro
Stade Français v Clermont
Bordeaux-Bègles v La Rochelle
Montpellier v Lyon
Oyonnax v Brive
Toulon v Toulouse
Grenoble v Castres

Bayonne v Racing-Métro
Stade Jean Dauger, Bayonne

There is a lot riding on Friday's opener in the Basque country at both ends of the table, but just as intriguing will be the battle of the full-backs.

Scott Spedding and Brice Dulin will start for their respective clubs in a final head-to-head battle for the two French internationals.

Dulin had been the first choice in the position for France for the best part of two seasons, but has endured an injury-disrupted season.

His absence in November opened up the door for Spedding, and the Bayonne full-back did enough to keep the job into the Six Nations.

While Dulin returned against Wales after shaking off a biceps problem, he was quickly dropped again despite scoring the only try against the Welsh.

Spedding impressed against Italy and England and is set to go to the World Cup as Philippe Saint-André's number one, unless Dulin can convince him otherwise.

Beyond the battle of the two full-backs, this is a huge game for Bayonne, who were grateful to Martin Bustos Moyano for his last-gasp penalty last time out which allowed the Basque side to escape with a win over relegation rivals Castres.

Another home win will be vital in the battle for survival, but Racing will be eager to make up for their dreadful display at Brive a fortnight ago.

With a play-off spot not yet guaranteed, any points on the road will be gratefully accepted by the Parisians, who have chosen to rest Six Nations duo Jamie Roberts and Bernard le Roux, but do welcome Jonathan Sexton straight back into the starting lineup.

Racing may have half an eye on their Champions Cup quarter-final against Saracens next week, but Bayonne will make them pay if they don't concentrate on the task at hand.

Bayonne: 15 Scott Spedding, 14 Martin Bustos Moyano, 13 Joe Rokocoko, 12 Gabiriele Lovobalavu, 11 Marvin O'Connor, 10 Santiago Fernandez, 9 Christophe Loustalot, 8 Charles Ollivon, 7 Jean Jo Marmouyet, 6 Jean Monribot, 5 Mark Chisholm (c), 4 Pelu Taele, 3 Aretz Iguiniz, 2 Anthony Etrillard, 1 Janse Van Rensburg
Replacements: 16 David Roumieu, 17 Lucas Pointud, 18 Dewald Senekal, 19 Lisiate Fa'aoso, 20 Guillaume Rouet, 21 Matthieu Ugalde, 22 Bastien Fuster, 23 Gert Muller

Racing-Métro: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Juan Imhoff, 13 Henry Chavancy, 12 Alexandre Dumoulin, 11 Marc Andreu, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Antonie Claassen, 7 Thibault Dubarry, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Francois van der Merwe, 4 Juandre Kruger, 3 Luc Ducalcon, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski (c), 1 Davit Khinchagishvili
Replacements: 16 Virgile Lacombe, 17 Julien Brugnaut, 18 Luke Charteris, 19 Camille Gerondeau, 20 Maxime Machenaud, 21 Johan Goosen, 22 Yoan Audrin, 23 Brian Mujati

Result last season: Racing-Métro won 19-16
Kick-off: Friday, 20:45 local (19:45 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite

Stade Français v Clermont
Stade Jean Bouin, Paris

Third-placed Stade Français host second-placed Clermont but all the pressure will be on the home side in this one.

Last season Stade stumbled down the stretch, falling out of the play-offs altogether after a strong start to the season.

It's been a similar situation this season, with Stade motoring along in the top two for most of the season before a few pitfalls recently.

They've lost two in a row at Jean Bouin, having seen the last remaining unbeaten home record in the Top 14 disappear with defeat to Oyonnax in January.

Grenoble did the same last time out during the 'doublon', and suddenly Stade are looking down rather than up.

Jules Plisson looked to be full of confidence when he struck the winning drop goal against Bordeaux three weeks ago, but after a tough couple of weeks with France, he will have to bounce back quickly.

Clermont have problems of their own, most notably in the half-backs, with both Morgan Parra and Camille Lopez out long-term.

That means Ludovic Radosavljevic and Brock James will get their chance, both this week and in the Champions Cup clash with Northampton.

Having been a little short of game time, the Australian playmaker will get the chance to show why Clermont offered him a new deal earlier this season.

Stade Français: 15 Djibril Camara, 14 Nayacalevu Waisea, 13 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Julien Arias, 10 Jules Plisson, 9 Julien Dupuy, 8 Jono Ross, 7 Raphaël Lakafia, 6 Antoine Burban, 5 Alexandre Flanquart, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Zak Taulafo, 2 Rémi Bonfils, 1 Heinke van der Merwe
Replacements: 16 Laurent Sempéré, 17 Zurabi Zhvania, 18 Gerhard Mostert, 19 Scott Lavalla, 20 Julien Tomas, 21 Morne Steyn, 22 Jérémy Sinzelle, 23 Davit Kubriashvili

Clermont: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Zac Guildford, 13 Aurélien Rougerie, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Napolioni Nalaga, 10 Brock James, 9 Thierry Lacrampe, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Alexandre Lapandry, 6 Peceli Yato, 5 Paul Jedrasiak, 4 Julien Pierre, 3 Clément Ric, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Thomas Domingo 
Replacements: 16 Ti'i Paulo, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 19 Fritz Lee, 20 Ludovic Radosavljevic, 21 Mike Delany, 22 Noa Nakaitaci, 23 Davit Zirakashvili

Result last season: Stade Français won 23-16
Kick-off: 14:35 local (13:35 GMT)
Referee: Cedric Marchat

Bordeaux-Bègles v La Rochelle
Stade Chaban Delmas, Bordeaux

Bordeaux-Bègles remain the only team to have beaten La Rochelle at Marcel Deflandre this season and the promoted side will be eager for revenge.

It was all the way back in September that Bordeaux stunned La Rochelle with a late comeback in a 29-26 win. That was also Bordeaux's only away win of the season so far, and it's their home form that is keeping them in the play-off race.

Still the last two games at Chaban Delmas have seen Bordeaux outplayed for a half by Toulon, before losing at home to Stade Français.

Just two points off the play-off spots, Bordeaux are still very much in the mix, but a third home defeat of the season would probably be enough to end their top six hopes.

La Rochelle have shown signs of life on the road in recent weeks. Having failed to pick up a point on their travels until January, the Rochelais followed up a point at Toulouse with a draw away at Montpellier.

Another result here would take them one step closer to survival but even with their recent struggles, Bordeaux are still one of the best teams in the league on home soil.

Bordeaux-Bègles: 15 Sofiane Guitoune, 14 Metuisela Talebula, 13 Jayden Spence, 12 Thibault Lacroix, 11 Blair Connor, 10 Lionel Beauxis, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Matthew Clarkin, 7 Hugh Chalmers, 6 Louis-Benoit Madaule, 5 Jandre Marais, 4 Julien Ledevedec, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Ole Avei, 1 Laurent Delboulbès
Replacements: 16 Beñat Auzqui, 17 Jefferson Poirot, 18 Berend Botha, 19 Peter Saili, 20 Yann Lesgourgues, 21 Julien Rey, 22 Pierre Bernard, 23 Jean-Baptiste Poux


La Rochelle: La Rochelle: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Malietoa Hingano, 13 Jean-Pascal Barraque, 12 Levani Botia, 11 Sireli Bobo, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Julien Audy, 8 Kevin Gourdon, 7 Romain Sazy, 6 Jason Eaton, 5 Leandro Cedaro, 4 Romana Graham, 3 Vincent Pelo, 2 Hikairo Forbes, 1 Thomas Synaeghel
Replacements: 16 Benjamin Geledan, 17 Jordan Seneca, 18 Jone Qovu, 19 Nicolas Djebaili, 20 Julien Berger, 21 Eliott Roudil, 22 Fabien Fortassin, 23 Lekso Kaulashvili

Previous result: La Rochelle won 28-14 in 2010 (in Pro D2)
Kick-off: 15:00 local (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Pascal Pechambert

Montpellier v Lyon
Altrad Stadium, Montpellier

Time is running out for Lyon to save themselves and their survival campaign will end without Tim Lane after he was let go this week.

The coaching set-up hasn't been without drama this season, with forwards coach Olivier Azam already signed up by Oyonnax as their next head coach.

Until then Azam and Scott Wisemantel will be charged with trying to beat the drop, and Lyon need results quickly if they are to stay in contention.

A fortnight ago they dominated large parts of their game against Toulon, but couldn't cope with the French champions' clinical attacking play and eventually missed out on even a bonus point.

Against Montpellier they face a team desperately short of confidence, and if they are to survive, this is a game they probably need to win or at least pick up a point.

Jake White might have started with a win against Toulon, but since then Montpellier have been just as disappointing as when Fabien Galthié was in charge.

Rene Ranger was the villain of the piece last time out in Toulouse, twice failing to deal with Luke McAlister kicks and allowing Vincent Clerc to score a double.

That probably put paid to their hopes of making the play-offs, but they still need at least one more win to avoid being dragged into a relegation battle.

François Trinh-Duc will help in that regard, and he has a lot resting on the end of season with the French fly-half jersey still very much up in the air before the World Cup.

Montpellier: 15 Ben Lucas, 14 Lucas Dupont, 13 Anthony Tuitavake, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Pierre Bérard, 10 Francois Trinh-Duc, 9 Benoit Paillaugue, 8 Akapusi Qera, 7 Ben Mowen, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo (c), 5 Thibaut Privat, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Charles Géli, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili
Replacements: 16 Mickael Ivaldi, 17 Chris King, 18 Robins Tchale Watchou, 19 Antoine Battut, 20 Jonathan Pélissié, 21 Wynand Olivier, 22 Yohann Artru, 23 Pat Cilliers

Lyon: 15 Romain Loursac, 14 Toby Arnold, 13 Kendrick Lynn, 12 Fabrice Estebanez, 11 Mosese Ratuvou, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Mathieu Lorée, 8 George Smith, 7 Karim Ghezal, 6 Julien Puricelli, 5 Lionel Nallet (c), 4 Simon Njewel, 3 Anthony Roux, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Emmanuel Felsina
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Florin Balan, 18 Masi Matadigo, 19 Eugene N'Zi, 20 Enrico Januarie, 21 Thibaut Regard, 22 Lachie Munro, 23 Horatiu Pungea

Previous result: Montpellier won 43-12 in 2012
Kick-off: 15:00 local (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Laurent Cardona

Oyonnax v Brive
Stade Charles Mathon, Oyonnax

Oyonnax can cement their position as play-off contenders with a win at home to relegation strugglers Brive at Charles Mathon.

Christophe Urios' side have been very strong at home this year, but were disappointing last time out away to La Rochelle when two late tries saved them from an absolute pasting.

That saw them fall out of the top six, but they could return with a win against Brive. Les Coujous eased their own relegation fears with a bonus-point success against Racing-Métro a fortnight ago but they need to keep it up if they are to hold off Castres and Lyon.

They play both before the end of the season, so it's very much in their hands, but they will be keen to take off some of the pressure here.

Both clubs follow a similar philosophy, using their powerful packs to become hard to beat at home.

In Gaëtan Germain and Benjamin Urdapilleta, there will be two of the best goal-kickers in the Top 14 on show, and their battle could be decisive.

Oyonnax: 15 Florian Denos, 14 Silvère Tian, 13 Guillaume Boussès, 12 Roimata Hansell-Pune, 11 Dug Codjo, 10 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 9 Fabien Cibray, 8 Viliami Ma'afu, 7 Olivier Missoup, 6 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 5 Damien Lagrange, 4 Leon Power, 3 Marc Clerc, 2 Jody Jenneker, 1 Antoine Tichit

Replacements: 16 Paula Ngauamo, 17 Ruaan du Preez, 18 Miroslav Nemecek, 19 Pedrie Wannenburg, 20 Yohan Domenech, 21 Régis Lespinas, 22 Hemani Paea, 23 Soane Tonga'uiha

Brive: 15 Gaëtan Germain, 14 Guillaume Namy, 13 Thomas Sanchou, 12 Sevanaia Galala, 11 Benito Masilevu, 10 Riaan Swanepoel, 9 Jean-Baptiste Péjoine, 8 Sisa Koyamaibole, 7 Poutasi Luafutu, 6 Petrus Hauman, 5 Arnaud Méla, 4 Peet Marais, 3 Kevin Buys, 2 Francois da Ros , 1 Johannes Coetzee

Replacements: 16 Thomas Acquier, 17 Goderzi Shvelidze, 18 Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 19 Said Hirèche, 20 Damien Neveu, 21 Romain Sola, 22 Alfi Mafi, 23 Giorgi Jgenti

Result last season: Oyonnax won 26-9
Kick-off: 15:00 local (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Christophe Berdos

Toulon v Toulouse
Stade Vélodrome, Marseille

Frédéric Michalak will make his long-awaited return this weekend in a huge game against his former club.

Last season Michalak was the star of the show in a 32-28 win for Toulon against Toulouse, and he will make his return after a lengthy absence because of a shoulder injury.

Toulon could take another step towards finishing the season top of the league, but Toulouse need a win to keep their own hopes of a home knock-out game alive.

Guy Novès will rest three of his French internationals, with Thierry Dusautoir, Yoann Maestri and Yoann Huget all given a break.

That is notable because it means they can now play in every remaining game without exceeding the FFR's 30-match limit.

Toulon don't have those problems and are set to bring their own internationals straight back in, although Leigh Halfpenny is injured, while Matt Giteau is still a week away from full fitness.

They may have next week's Champions Cup quarter-final against Wasps in the back of their mind, but the battle of les Rouge et Noir is one of the big games of the Top 14 calendar.

When the teams met in October, Toulouse won 21-10 and the scoreline flattered the visitors. Given their current form, it wouldn't be a surprise if Toulon got their revenge and some in front of 60,000 in Marseille.

Toulon: 15 Drew Mitchell, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 David Smith, 10 Frédéric Michalak, 9 Sébastien Tillous Borde, 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Romain Taofifenua, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Xavier Chiocci
Replacements: 16 Jean-Charles Orioli, 17 Alexandre Menini, 18 Jocelino Suta, 19 Mamuka Gorgodze, 20 Juan Martin Hernandez, 21 Rudi Wulf, 22 Eric Escande, 23 Levan Chilachava

Toulouse: 15 Maxime Médard, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Florian Fritz, 12 Gaël Fickou, 11 Timoci Matanavou, 10 Luke McAlister, 9 Jean-Marc Doussain, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Joe Tekori, 6 Imanol Harinordoquy, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Edwin Maka, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp

Replacements: 16 Julien Marchand, 17 Schalk Ferreira, 18 Grégory Lamboley, 19 Yannick Nyanga, 20 Sébastien Bezy, 21 Arthur Bonneval, 22 Jano Vermaak, 23 Census Johnston

Result last season: Toulon won 32-28
Kick-off: 18.30 local (17.30 GMT)
Referee: Cyril Lafon

Grenoble v Castres
Stade des Alpes, Grenoble

The 'doublon' had very different outcomes for these two sides, with Grenoble shocking Stade Français at home while Castres were cruelly denied at Bayonne.

That win put Grenoble in the driving seat for a play-off spot, as they took advantage of some Parisian absentees to record a comfortable win.

With four home games in their remaining six, Grenoble have a great chance of reaching the play-offs for the first time since they returned to the top flight.

Fly-half Jonathan Wisniewski again repeated his ambition to make the French squad by the World Cup, and his goal-kicking is certainly a huge asset.

His struggles in defence against Stade were a worry, but the former Racing player has enjoyed a good season.

Castres at least managed their first point on their travels in Bayonne, but it should have been more only for a late penalty to deny them.

Six points adrift of safety, they will need a win on the road somewhere, and the return of Rory Kockott will be vital if this is to be the game.

Still, Grenoble have only lost at home once this season, and it would be a surprise to see them drop another.

Grenoble: tbc

Castres: tbc

Result last season: Grenoble won 20-16
Kick-off: 20.45 local (19.45 GMT)
Referee: Salim Attalah