Preview: Top 14, Round 22

Date published: April 10 2015

After a European interlude it's back to Top 14 action and with five rounds left, every team has something still to play for.

Between the relegation strugglers and the play-off chasers, there is very little to choose, while at the top, three teams are still fighting it out for an automatic semi-final place.

Racing-Métro will kick off Saturday's action when they host Montpellier, before Brive host Lyon in a key battle at the bottom.

Clermont and Toulouse welcome Oyonnax and Bayonne respectively before Toulon travel to Grenoble.

And finally Castres will try to continue their great escape when they host Bordeaux-Bègles in the evening game.

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

Racing-Métro v Montpellier
Stade Yves du Manoir, Colombes

Racing-Métro will have to put their European disappointment behind them quickly as they face a key clash in the race for a home play-off game.

Sitting just two points clear of Toulouse, the Parisian side are well-placed to finish in the top four, but any slip-up could be fatal to their chances of playing a barrage game at Colombes.

They welcome Montpellier this weekend, and Jake White's side arrive with a little more confidence than in recent weeks.

Their thumping win over Lyon reignited their own play-off hopes, with François Trinh-Duc shining on his first start in five months as he scored one try and created another in the first ten minutes.

They will be on the road in three of their five remaining games, so probably need at least one away win to make the final six.

However they are just one point behind sixth-placed Oyonnax, and given the depth and quality of their squad, none of the top sides will fancy meeting them in the play-offs.

Racing-Métro: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Yoan Audrin, 13 Alexandre Dumoulin, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Marc Andreu, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Antonie Claassen, 7 Camille Gerondeau, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 François van der Merwe, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Luc Ducalcon, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Eddy Ben Arous
Replacements: 16 Virgile Lacombe, 17 Julien Brugnault, 18 Fabrice Metz, 19 Thibault Dubarry, 20 Mike Phillips, 21 Johan Goosen, 22 Henry Chavancy, 23 Brian Mujati

Montpellier: 15 Ben Lucas, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Anthony Tuitavake, 12 Albert Vulivuli, 11 Yohann Artru, 10 François Trinh-Duc, 9 Benoit Paillaugue, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Akapusi Qera, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo (c), 5 Sitaleki Timani, 4 Tom Donnelly, 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 Benoit Sicart, 23 Pat Cilliers

Result last season: Racing won 17-12
Kick-off: 14:35 local (13:35 GMT)
Referee: Cedric Marchat

Brive v Lyon
Stade Amédée Domenech, Brive

It's last chance saloon for Lyon this week, who surely need a first away win of the season, if they are to give themselves any chance of staying up.

Brive have not been as dominant at home this year as they were last season, but they know this is a game they can't afford to lose.

With Castres having turned things around in recent weeks, Brive are now just two points clear of the bottom two, and simply have to win.

Their home form has picked up though, since back-to-back losses to Clermont and Toulon, and they have now won six in a row at Amédée Domenech.

For Lyon it's been a disappointing campaign, after earning promotion and recruiting ambitiously. It's looking increasingly likely that they will finish bottom of the table, just as they did on their last stint in the Top 14, back in 2011/12.

Six points behind Brive, a win here would theoretically give them a lifeline, especially with three of their last four games at home, but with Tim Lane having been removed as manager, Lyon don't have the look of a side that are about to turn things around.

Brive: 15 Gaetan Germain, 14 Guillaume Namy, 13 Thomas Sanchou, 12 Chris Tuatara-Morrison, 11 Benito Masilevu, 10 Riaan Swanepoel, 9 Jean-Baptiste Péjoine (c), 8 Sisa Koyamaibole, 7 Poutasi Luafutu, 6 Petrus Hauman, 5 Peet Marais, 4 Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 3 Giorgi Jgenti, 2 François Da Ros, 1 Goderdzi Shvelidze
Replacements: 16 Thomas Acquier, 17 Karlen Asieshvili, 18 Arnaud Méla, 19 Saîd Hirèche, 20 Damien Neveu, 21 Romain Sola, 22 Sevanaia Galala, 23 Kevin Buys

Lyon: 15 Jérôme Porical, 14 Toby Arnold, 13 Fabrice Estebanez, 12 Waisea Sukanaveita, 11 Franck Romanet, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Eugene N’Zi, 7 George Smith, 6 Julien Puricelli, 5 Lionel Nallet, 4 Simon Njewel, 3 Anthony Roux, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Jérémy Castex
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Bogdan Balan, 18 Coenie Basson, 19 Masi Matadigo, 20 Juan Leguizamon, 21 Mathieu Lorée, 22 Thibaut Regard, 23 Horatiu Pungea

Previous result: The teams drew 19-19 in ProD2 in 2012
Kick-off: 15:00 local (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Alexandre Ruiz

Clermont v Oyonnax
Stade Marcel Michelin, Clermont-Ferrand

Last week Northampton were dismantled at the Stade Marcel Michelin, now it's the turn of Oyonnax to take on the French giants.

Les Jaunards produced arguably the most impressive 40 minutes of any team in Europe this season to open up a 27-0 lead against the English champions.

If they can do the same again on Saturday, it's difficult to see how Oyonnax can live with them. Christophe Urios' side currently occupy the final play-off place but will need a win on the road before the season's out if they are to stay there.

While a trip to Clermont hardly seems like the most likely place to earn that win, their hosts might have their minds on other things.

After all, Clermont will take on Saracens in their Champions Cup semi-final in Saint-Etienne next weekend, and will surely have at least half an eye on that game.

Still, they've lost just once at home this season, and have the best home record of any team in the Top 14, so it would still take something special from Oyonnax to spring an upset.

Clermont: 15 Jean-Marcellin Buttin, 14 Zac Guildford, 13 Aurélien Rougerie, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Julien Malzieu, 10 Mike Delany, 9 Thierry Lacrampe, 8 Peceli Yato, 7 Alexandre Lapandry, 6 Julien Bardy, 5 Loic Jacquet, 4 Julien Pierre, 3 Clément Ric, 2 Ti'i Paulo, 1 Thomas Domingo
Replacements: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Raphaël Chaume, 18 Davit Zirakashvili, 19 Paul Jedrasiak, 20 Julien Kazubek, 21 Charlie Cassang, 22 Brock James, 23 Noa Nakaitaci

Oyonnax: 15 Florian Denos (c), 14 Silvere Tian, 13 Guillaume Bousses, 12 Hemani Paea, 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 Guillaume Bernad, 20 Yohan Domenech, 21 Regis Lespinas, 22 Alaska Taufa, 23 Soane Tonga'uiha

Result last season: Clermont won 33-19
Kick-off: 15:00 local (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Mathieu Raynal

Toulouse v Bayonne
Stade Ernest Wallon, Toulouse

A fortnight ago Toulouse produced one of the comebacks of the season as they overcome an 18-0 deficit to stun Toulon in Marseille.

That success over the reigning champions put Guy Novès' side back in contention for a home play-off game, but they still have work to do.

It starts at home to Bayonne this weekend, a game which Toulouse have been waiting for since September.

It was the Basque side who handed Toulouse a fifth straight defeat in the reverse fixture at Jean Dauger, with Corey Flynn's 20th-minute red card still a very sore point.

The former All Black was given his marching orders when he walked on the ankle of Aretz Iguiniz while in a maul, and Novès is clearly still incensed by the decision.

Bayonne won that fractious encounter 35-19 but their last win at Toulouse came back in 2006.

They've been on the wrong end of a couple of thrashings in the last two seasons, but with Castres on the up, Bayonne can't afford to write this one off, especially after their home defeat to Racing a fortnight ago.

On that occasion, Scott Spedding had a night to forget, and the French international admits his sole priority is to help the club beat relegation before he departs for Clermont at the end of the season.

Toulouse: 15 Maxime Médard, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Florian Fritz, 12 Luke McAlister, 11 Yoann Huget, 10 Jean-Marc Doussain, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Imanol Harinordoquy, 6 Yannick Nyanga, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Edwin Maka, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp
Replacements: 16 Julien Marchand, 17 Schalk Ferreira, 18 Census Johnston, 19 Yoann Maestri, 20 Thierry Dusautoir, 21 Sébastien Bezy, 22 Toby Flood, 23 Timoci Matanavou

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

Result last season: Toulouse won 40-3
Kick-off: 15:00 local (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Maxime Chalon

Grenoble v Toulon
Stade des Alpes, Grenoble

Toulon have lost on each of their last two trips to Grenoble since the team from the Alps returned to the Top 14 but will be hoping it's third time lucky.

Sandwiched in between a Champions Cup quarter-final and next week's semi against Leinster, Toulon might be focused on other things, but they could drop out of the top two if they lose this one.

Grenoble, for their part, need to bounce back from a home loss to Castres, and while they have three games left at the Stade des Alpes, they are against the top two and Toulouse.

Fabrice Landreau's team are probably just about favourites to earn a play-off place, despite sitting in eighth at the moment, but a loss here and it's a long way back.

The key may well be staying in touch in the first half, with Toulon showing a worrying tendancy to switch off in the second half of games.

After being stunned by Toulouse a fortnight ago, it was Wasps' turn to give them a scare last weekend, as they got back to within a score after trailing 22-6 at half-time.

With the big knock-out games coming up, that is a problem that Toulon need to sort out quickly, if they want to match last season's historic double.

The return of Leigh Halfpenny will be a big boost however, even if Frédéric Michalak performed admirably from the kicking tee last weekend.

If the Welshman can prove his fitness, he will be a welcome addition to the side that will take on Leinster in Marseille next weekend.

Grenoble: 15 Fabien Gengenbacher (c), 14 Alipate Ratini, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Nigel Hunt, 11 Gio Aplon, 10 Jonathan Wisniewski, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Rory Grice, 7 Peter Kimlin, 6 Henry Vanderglas, 5 Hendrik Roodt, 4 Ross Skeate, 3 Dayna Edwards, 2 Laurent Bouchet, 1 Fabien Barcella
Replacements: 16 Arnaud Héguy, 17 Albertus Buckle, 18 Paul Willemse, 19 Fabien Alexandre, 20 James Hart, 21 Chris Farrell, 22 Xavier Mignot, 23 Jono Owen

Toulon: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Delon Armitage, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Frédéric Michalak, 9 Eric Escande, 8 Juan Martin Fernandez-Lobbe (c), 7 Mamuka Gorgodze, 6 Virgile Bruni, 5 Jocelino Suta, 4 Romain Taofifenua, 3 Levan Chilachava, 2 Jean-Charles Orioli, 1 Xavier Chiocci
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Florian Fresia, 18 Martin Castrogiovanni, 19 Konstantin Mikautadze, 20 SteffonArmitage, 21 Josua Tuisova, 22 Rudi Wulf, 23 Sébastien Tillous-Borde

Result last season: Grenoble won 28-26
Kick-off: 16:45 local (15:45 GMT)
Referee: Jérôme Garcès

Castres v Bordeaux-Bègles
Stade Pierre Antoine, Castres

Two teams headed in opposite directions meet at Pierre Antoine as a rejuvenated Castres play host to free-falling Bordeaux-Bègles.

Raphaël Ibanez had strong words with his team this week as they look to recover from successive home defeats, to Stade Français and La Rochelle, which have put a big dent in their hopes of making the play-offs.

Three points behind Oyonnax, Bordeaux face successive trips to the bottom two, and almost certainly need to win one of them to stand a chance of finishing in the top six.

It's been a rough couple of months, with the problems starting when they lost to 14 men at Montpellier at the end of January, and with the exception of a victory over Toulon, it's been downhill since there.

Identifying when Castres' season turned around is even easier. They looked to be packing their bags for Pro D2 when they trailed Lyon 14-0 while down to 14 men at the start of March, but they came back to win that game, and have been tough to beat ever since.

They are still in the bottom two, but their win at Grenoble last time out gave them a reasonable chance of survival.

That will be huge for the future of the club, with a number of key players set to depart if they drop down to the second flight.

Castres: 15 Geoffrey Palis, 14 Rémy Grosso, 13 Romain Cabannes, 12 Rémi Lamerat, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Rémi Talès, 9 Cédric Garcia, 8 Johnnie Beattie, 7 Yannick Caballero, 6 Jannie Bornman, 5 Rodrigo Capo Ortega (c), 4 Christophe Samson, 3 Karena Wihongi, 2 Marc-Antoine Rallier, 1 Yannick Forestier
Replacements: 16 Brice Mach, 17 Mihaita Lazar, 18 Benjamin Desroche, 19 Ibrahim Diarra, 20 Antoine Dupont, 21 Max Evans, 22 Julien Dumora, 23 Ramiro Herrera

Bordeaux-Bègles: 15 Ulrich Beyers, 14 Metuisela Talebula, 13 Jayden Spence, 12 Julien Rey, 11 Blair Connor, 10 Pierre Bernard, 9 Heini Adams, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Hugh Chalmers, 6 Louis-Benoit Madaule (c), 5 Berend Botha, 4 Jandre Marais, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Ole Avei, 1 Jean-Baptiste Poux
Replacements: 16 Clément Maynadier, 17 Jefferson Poirot, 18 Julien Le Devedec, 19 Marco Tauleigne, 20 Yann Lesgourgues, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Sofiane Guitoune, 23 Beñat Auzqui

Result last season: Castres won 15-9
Kick-off: 20.45 local (19.45 GMT)
Referee: Pascal Gauzère