Preview: Top 14, Round Six

Date published: September 19 2014

After five weeks of Top 14 action, Racing Métro are the only one of last year's play-off teams who are still unbeaten at home.

After five weeks of Top 14 action, Racing Métro are the only one of last year's play-off teams who are still unbeaten at home.

Last Saturday it was the turn of Toulouse and Toulon to go down on home soil, just as Castres, Montpellier and Clermont had done before them.

It's too early to tell if this improved away form is a real trend in the league, or just a blip, but teams certainly seem to be more focused on the road than we have sometimes seen.

Toulouse are on their travels to Racing this week in Saturday's early game and desperately need a win to get their season back on track, while at the other end of the spectrum, away wins for Stade Français or Bordeaux-Bègles, at Montpellier and La Rochelle respectively, would confirm that they are genuine contenders this season.

Clermont and Grenoble can maintain their fine starts to the campaign at home to strugglers Lyon and Bayonne, while Castres will need to solve their defensive problems when they host Oyonnax.

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

Racing Métro v Toulouse

Defeat to Clermont last weekend marked a third straight loss for the first time in the Guy Novès era at Toulouse, so this trip to Racing is a huge match.

Les Ciels et Blancs were up and down last time out against Lyon, eventually grabbing a bonus point with two tries at the death, but only after being given a real scare in the second half.

While they eventually got the maximum points, there were reasons for concern as Racing struggled to take advantage of their early dominance to put the game to bed.

There was also disappointment off the field this week when Matt Giteau chose to stick with Toulon over a lucrative move to the capital.

That appears to mean Rémi Talès will come in at fly-half next year, but it will be up to Benjamin Dambielle and a fit-again Johan Goosen to fill that role this weekend.

Last season this fixture proved to be a turning point in Racing's season, as they cruised to a 25-5 win just before the start of the Six Nations, before picking up six wins and a draw from their next eight games.

Toulouse will be keen to reverse that trend this year, knowing that a fourth consecutive defeat would leave them in a dire situation just six weeks into the season.

They should be able to welcome back a number of players this weekend, and centre Florian Fritz explained this week that the team aren't too far from where they need to be.

It's worth pointing out that the last time these two teams met was when Fritz took a serious knock to the head before returning to the game, to much criticism.

Given that Toulouse lie in ninth, there is no chance that this game is a write off, so we should be in for a cracking game at Colombes.

After all, Novès and co also have a score to settle after that Fritz game when Racing went to Ernest Wallon in the barrages in May and won to end Toulouse's season.

Racing Métro: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Marc Andreu, 13 Henry Chavancy, 12 Alexandre Dumoulin, 11 Teddy Thomas, 10 Benjamin Dambielle, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Antonie Claassen, 7 Bernard le Roux, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Francois van der Merwe, 4 Juandre Kruger, 3 Luc Ducalcon, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski (c), 1 Julien Brugnaut.
Replacements: 16 Virgile Lacombe, 17 Eddy Ben Arous, 18 Brian Mujati, 19 Fabrice Metz, 20 Camille Gerondeau, 21 Mike Phillips, 22 Johan Goosen, 23 Jamie Roberts.

Toulouse: 15 Yoann Huget, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Florian Fritz, 12 Gael Fickou, 11 Maxime Medard, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Sebastien Bezy, 8 Joe Tekori, 7 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 6 Yannick Nyanga, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Yoann Maestri, 3 Kisi Pulu, 2 Christopher Tolofua, 1 Neemia Tialata.
Replacements: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Cyril Baille, 18 Rodrigue Neti, 19 Edwin Maka, 20 Gregory Lamboley, 21 Jean-Marc Doussain, 22 Timoci Matanavou, 23 Yann David.

Venue Stade Yves du Manoir, Colombes
Kick-off: 14.30 local (12.30 GMT)
Referee: Alexandre Ruiz

Castres v Oyonnax

It's been a disastrous start to the campaign for Castres, who were hammered again on the road last weekend at La Rochelle and now sit bottom of the table.

On paper a home game against Oyonnax looks a nice chance to start to turn things around, but Christophe Urios' side have shown this season that they will be no pushovers on their travels.

The Oyomen have picked up at least a losing bonus point in every game this season except for their trip to Bayonne, and were in cracking form as they thrashed Grenoble last time out.

Castres meanwhile have been woeful so far, with only Brive having scored fewer points, and La Rochelle the only team with a poorer defence.

The most worrying sign last week was the complete lack of energy as what looked like a comeback turned into a procession for La Rochelle.

According to manager Matthias Rolland, the biggest issue is with Castres' failure to play as a team and president Pierre-Yves Revol had words this week to try to spark a turnaround.

Despite their problems, it's important to remember that Castres have reached the last two Top 14 finals, and their last league defeat at Pierre Antoine dates back to 2012 (the 'home' loss to Stade Français in Round One was in Beziers).

That's not to say they will beat Oyonnax, who have really improved their away form, but it's a reminder that last place in the Top 14 is not where Castres belong.

If Castres do go down at home, it will be time for them to start focusing on survival rather than the play-offs.

Castres: 15 Julien Dumora, 14 Romain Martial, 13 Remi Lamerat, 12 Romain Cabannes, 11 Remi Grosso, 10 Remi Tales (c), 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Johnnie Beattie, 7 Jannie Bornman, 6 Ibrahim Diarra, 5 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Paea Fa'anunu, 2 Brice Mach, 1 Mihaita Lazar.
Replacements: 16 Marc-Antoine Rallier, 17 Saimone Taumoepeau, 18 Christophe Samson, 19 Yannick Caballero, 20 Cedric Garcia, 21 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 22 Thomas Combezou, 23 Yohan Montes

Oyonnax: 15 Florian Denos (c), 14 Dug Codjo, 13 Guillaume Bousses, 12 Roimata Hansell-Pune, 11 Yves Donguy, 10 Regis Lespinas, 9 Fabien Cibray, 8 Pedrie Wannenburg, 7 Christophe Andre, 6 Guillaume Bernad, 5 Leon Power, 4 Miroslav Nemecek, 3 Clement Baiocco, 2 Clement Jullien, 1 Antoine Tichit.
Replacements: 16 Jody Jenneker, 17 Marc Clerc, 18 Geoffrey Fabbri, 19 Viliame Ma'afu, 20 Yohan Domenech, 21 Pierre Aguillon, 22 Jean-François Coux, 23 Soane Tonga'uiha

Venue Stade Pierre Antoine, Castres
Kick-off: 18.30 local (16.30 GMT)