Preview: Top 14, Round Four

Date published: September 6 2014

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It was a weekend for the underdog last time out in the Top 14 as all five unbeaten sides lost for the first time.

It was a weekend for the underdog last time out in the Top 14 as all five unbeaten sides lost for the first time.

Clermont, who were undone on home soil by Montpellier welcome Racing, who are fresh from a morale-boosting win over Toulon.

The reigning champions will be hoping to get back to winning ways at home to Bordeaux-Bègles, while Toulouse need a big performance at Brive.

Lyon and Grenoble welcome Oyonnax and La Rochelle respectively, while Stade Français will be desperate for a win at home to Bayonne.

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


Brive v Toulouse

It was a weekend to forget for both these teams last time out as they were humbled by the promoted sides, paying the price for lack of discipline.

In Brive's case that meant four yellow cards at Lyon, and as it stands they are far and away the least disciplined side in the league.

Toulouse were also lacking in that department, with Corey Flynn's mindless sin-binning the turning point in the loss at La Rochelle.

Last year this game saw Toulouse comfortably beaten as Brive produced a high-intensity display on home soil, but already this season Les Coujous have been a little less impressive on their own patch.

They took 40 minutes – and two extra men – to take control of their opener against La Rochelle, before meekly succumbing to Clermont.

Toulouse could be the perfect opponent, with their woeful recent away record in the Top 14 that's seen them win just once on the road since the start of last season.

The loss at La Rochelle earned them an earful from Guy Novès but it remains to be seen if that will be enough to shake them from their torpor.

With Clermont, Toulon, Stade Français and Racing coming up in four of their next five games, this is a game that Toulouse surely can't afford to give up on, but Brive go in as favourites based on recent history.

Brive: 15 Gaetan Germain, 14 Guillaume Namy, 13 Arnaud Mignardi, 12 Andrew Ma'ilei, 11 Elia Radikedike, 10 Thomas Laranjeira, 9 Jean-Baptiste Pejoine, 8 Sisa Koyamaibole, 7 Poutasi Luafutu, 6 Petrus Hauman, 5 Arnaud Mela (c), 4 Peet Marais, 3 Kevin Buys, 2 Guillaume Ribes, 1 Goderdzi Shvelidze.
Replacements: 16 Thomas Acquier, 17 Karlen Asieshvili, 18 Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 19 Said Hireche, 20 Benjamin Neveu, 21 Riaan Swanepoel, 22 Benito Masilevu, 23 Damien Jourdain.

Toulouse: 15 Clement Poitrenaud, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Yann David, 12 Luke McAlister, 11 Gael Fickou, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Jean-Marc Doussain, 8 Imanol Harinordoquy, 7 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 6 Yannick Nyanga, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Romain Millo-Chluski, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Kisi Pulu
Replacements: 16 Rodrigue Neti, 17 Cyril Baille, 18 Christopher Tolofua, 19 Yoann Maestri, 20 Gregory Lamboley, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Alexis Palisson, 23 Florian Fritz.

Date: Saturday, September 6
Venue: Stade Amédée Domenech
Kick-off: 14.45 local (13.45 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite
Assistant referees: Stéphane Hebert, David Rosich


Clermont v Racing

For so long the Marcel Michelin was an impenetrable fortress, but it's clear that is no longer the case.

Grenoble had scared Clermont on the opening weekend, and Montpellier were worth their win last week, but that doesn't mean Racing will go into this game as favourites.

The pressure must surely be on Brock James now, as one of his all too familiar brain fades when kicking a penalty dead two minutes from time turned out to be the key moment against Montpellier.

With Camille Lopez impressive at Brive the previous week, it's surely only a matter of time before the former Perpignan player establishes himself as first choice for Les Jaunards.

This is a must-win game for Clermont though, who sit joint top but will have played three out of their first four games at home in what should have been a nice start to the campaign.

That cannot be said of Racing, who are on their travels for the third time this season, but if they were to knock off Clermont a week after beating Toulon, they would be in a really strong position.

They will have to do that without Jonny Sexton as he recovers from his broken jaw, with Johan Goosen given the opportunity to prove Racing can survive without their departing Irish playmaker.

There were signs of greater ambition from Racing last week, with Casey Laulala looking a fine addition in the centres.

Expect the Racing pack to put the pressure on up front, and if they can dominate possession and territory as a result, we might see another upset here.

Clermont: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Aurelien Rougerie (c), 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Napolioni Nalaga, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Alexandre Lapandry, 6 Julien Bonnaire, 5 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 4 Jamie Cudmore, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Replacements: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Raphael Chaume, 18 Loic Jacquet, 19 Viktor Kolelishvili, 20 Ludovic Radosavljevic, 21 Brock James, 22 Zac Guildford, 23 Daniel Kotze.

Racing: 15 Benjamin Lapeyre, 14 Adrien Planté, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Teddy Thomas, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Antonie Claassen, 7 Bernard Le Roux, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Fabrice Metz, 4 Juandre Kruger, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski (c), 1 Davit Khinchagishvili.
Replacements: 16 Jeremie Maurouard, 17 Julien Brugnaut, 18 Thibault Dubarry, 19 Camille Gerondeau, 20 Maxime Machenaud, 21 Benjamin Dambielle, 22 Alexandre Dumoulin, 23 Walter Desmaison.

Date: Saturday, September 6
Venue: Stade Marcel Michelin
Kick-off: 17.00 local (16.00 GMT)
Referee: Christophe Berdos
Assistant referees: Cyril Lafon, Bruno Gabaldon


Grenoble v La Rochelle

Grenoble and La Rochelle both got off the mark last weekend with morale-boosting wins and if those displays were anything to go by this should be an entertaining game.

After two narrow losses on the road, Grenoble were very impressive back on home soil, albeit against a weakened Bordeaux, and in Alipate Ratini they have the most dangerous finisher in the league.

More important to their recent form has been the arrival of fly-half Jonathan Wisniewski, who is enjoying something of a renaissance after a difficult couple of years at Racing.

Once talked about as a potential international, Wisniewski has seized his opportunity for Fabrice Landreau's men, and has got Grenoble firing.

They will see this as an opportunity for five points, with La Rochelle showing last week that they will probably

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