Top 14 Preview: Round 10

Date published: November 4 2016

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The November Tests are fast approaching however the Top 14 continues apace with three big games between play-off contenders.

Stade Français, in turmoil off the pitch, kick things off at Bordeaux-Bègles before a huge derby encounter between Toulouse and Castres.

Basement dwellers Bayonne face a daunting trip to Brive, while Clermont will look to cement their place at the top with victory over Grenoble.

On Saturday evening champions Racing 92 take on high-flying Montpellier, before Sunday’s early game where La Rochelle play host to Pau.

Finally Toulon will face a number of former players when the travel to Lyon for the final game of the weekend.

Fixtures

Saturday

Bordeaux-Bègles v Stade Français
Toulouse v Castres
Brive v Bayonne
Clermont v Grenoble
Racing 92 v Montpellier

Sunday

La Rochelle v Pau
Lyon v Toulon


Bordeaux-Bègles v Stade Français
Stade Chaban Delmas, Bordeaux

It’s been a tough couple of weeks for Stade Français, with rumours emerging of Thomas Savare’s desire to sell the club.

The sheer number of players out of contract at the end of the season is proving a real problem, with Rabah Slimani, Geoffrey Doumayrou and Raphaël Lakafia having already confirmed their departures.

It is with the threat of a mass exodus that they travel to Bordeaux, to take on a team two points, and two places ahead of them in sixth.

Stade weren’t entirely convincing, but picked up the win at home to Lyon last week, while Bordeaux were denied a losing bonus point at Castres.

With two of the more attacking teams in the league, this has the potential to be an exciting start to the round.

Having said that, the likely use of Hugo Bonneval at fly-half for Stade might be asking a lot of the full-back in the absence of Jules Plisson (with France) and injured duo Morné Steyn and Meyer Bosman.

Last year’s result: Bordeaux won 35-25
Kick-off: 14:45 local (13:45 GMT)
Referee: Thomas Charabas


Toulouse v Castres
Stade Ernest Wallon, Toulouse

It’s been nearly 40 years since Castres last won away to their nearest neighbours, but Christophe Urios’ side appear confident that this is finally the year.

The absence of Toulouse’s international contingent should certainly help, seven of the team were away with Guy Novès this week.

Castres had no one involved, but appear to be coming into some form after a sticky period heading into Europe.

While their lack of French representation will be a concern, there is added spice to this game surrounding a future France international.

Antoine Dupont is only 19 but already looks like one of the most promising scrum-halves in Europe, and had been due to head to Toulouse next season.

Castres, however, are doing everything they can to hold onto him. Toulouse should get a close-up view of who they are battling for this weekend.

Last year’s result: Toulouse won 37-20
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Pascal Gauzère


Brive v Bayonne
Stade Amédée Domenech, Brive

Bayonne needed two wins from their next four games according to Vincent Etcheto ahead of last week’s home defeat to Racing 92.

That leaves them desperately needing a win away to a Brive side who will still be smarting at the derby humbling they received from Clermont.

Facing a Jaunards side missing a whole host of first-teamers, a couple of short bursts were enough for the leaders to cruise to a bonus-point win.

As a result both these teams will be desperate for a result, but having lost just once at home all season, Brive will expect to see off their Basque visitors.

Previous result: Brive won 25-9 in 2015
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Adrien Descottes


Clermont v Grenoble
Stade Marcel Michelin, Clermont-Ferrand

Arguably the biggest mismatch of the weekend, Clermont look unstoppable at the moment, capable of putting out two full teams that could challenge for the top six.

It won’t all be easy this week, with a number of players away on international duty, particularly in the second row.

However Guy Novès’ decision to stick with his elite list means the likes of Morgan Parra, Camille Lopez and Noa Nakaitaci are all available.

Grenoble were on the wrong end of a heavy defeat a week ago in Toulon, and face a tough challenge to get anything out of this one.

Currently six points from safety, they are in danger of being cut adrift with Bayonne once again.

Last year’s result: Clermont won 25-6
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Sébastien Minery


Racing 92 v Montpellier
Stade Yves du Manoir, Colombes

A potential play-off match will be the evening kick-off on Saturday but Racing 92 will be missing a host of key players including Dan Carter.

Up against a Montpellier side who aren’t entirely convincing, but who do not have too many absentees, that could be a problem.

Jake White’s team scraped past La Rochelle a week ago, with Racing finally getting off the mark on their travels at Bayonne.

The French champions have been unbeatable at home so far this season, but between injuries and international call-ups, Montpellier will fancy their chances of ending that run.

Last year’s result: Racing won 40-25
Kick-off: 20:45 local (19:45 GMT)
Referee: Alexandre Ruiz


La Rochelle v Pau
Stade Marcel Deflandre, La Rochelle

Patrice Collazo and La Rochelle will still be wondering how they threw away victory against Montpellier a week ago.

Charles Bouldoire’s disastrous error, throwing the ball out of play when all he needed to do was dot down, could prove costly.

Still it was another sign of how far La Rochelle have come and that they are real contenders for a top six spot.

This week they will be without Uini Atonio and Kevin Gourdon with France, a problem they may have to become increasingly used to given the performances of their French players.

Still, there are still plenty of quality players available and they host a Pau side that has struggled on its travels this year.

With one win at Grenoble back in September and a bonus point at Lyon, Pau have not exactly fired on the road, and travel to the Marcel Deflandre where La Rochelle are unbeaten, albeit with two draws.

It would be a shock if Pau could end that record.

Last year’s result: La Rochelle won 35-16
Kick-off: 12:30 local (11:30 GMT)
Referee: Tual Trainini


Lyon v Toulon
Matmut Stadium, Lyon

Toulon travel to take on Toulon lite in Lyon, with a lot of familiar faces set to reunite on Sunday afternoon.

First and foremost, Lyon coach Pierre Mignoni was in charge of the backs on la Rade for their run of three straight European titles.

Since heading to Lyon he has not been afraid to go back to his former club for reinforcements, with five players leaving Toulon for Lyon this summer alone.

Between Delon Armitage, Freddie Michalak and Virgile Bruni, there will be a lot of players who know the visitors very well.

Having said that, this will be Mike Ford’s second game in charge, and if the big win over Grenoble was anything to go by, Toulon appear to be enjoying his methods.

Of course this week they will have to do without François Trinh-Duc and Guilhem Guirado, not to mention back row Charles Ollivon. The former Bayonne man, who had been subject of transfer speculation, is not set to extend his contract with the club.

Finally this game should see the long-awaited debut for Japan’s Ayumu Goromaru, who has been waiting patiently for his chance in the Top 14.

Previous result: Toulon won 22-14
Kick-off: 16:15 local (15:15 GMT)
Referee: Laurent Cardona

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