Top 14 preview: Round 13

Date published: December 22 2012

The Top 14 returns this week, with big games pitting Stade Français against Biarritz and also Perpignan facing an in-form Montpellier.

Top 14 rugby is back on the schedule this, week with big games in Round 13 pitting Stade Français against Biarritz and Perpignan taking on Montpellier.

League leaders Toulon travel to Agen while their nearest challengers, Clermont, kick-off the action on Friday with a tricky trip to Bordeaux-Begles.


Friday, December 21
Bordeaux-Begles vs Clermont Auvergne

Saturday , December 22
Grenoble vs Toulouse
Stade Francais vs Biarritz
Bayonne vs Mont de Marsan
Castres vs Racing Metro
Perpignan vs Montpellier
Agen vs Toulon


1 Toulon 47
2 Toulouse 42
3 Clermont Auvergne 41
4 Castres 37
5 Montpellier 36
6 Grenoble 30
7 Biarritz 28
8 Perpignan 26
9 Racing Metro 25
10 Stade Francais 24
11 Bayonne 21
12 Bordeaux-Begles 17
13 Agen 16
14 Mont de Marsan 6

Bordeaux-Begles vs Clermont Auvergne
Stade Jacques Chaban-Delmas, Bordeaux

Clermont return to Top 14 duty full of confidence after overturning Heineken Cup champions Leinster both home and away over the past few weeks.

Currently sitting third in the domestic table though, they will hope to temporarily close the gap on league leaders Toulon (six points clear) against Bordeaux on Friday.

Team selection sees several changes made following a couple of bruising battles with Leinster. Earning call-ups to the line-up are players such as Benson Stanley, Regan King, David Skrela and Julian Malzieu. Elvis Vermeulen will skipper the side from the back-row while there's a start for hooker Ti'i Paulo.

Kick-off: 20:50 (19:50 GMT)
Referee: Patrick Pechambert
Assistant referees: Jérôme Lamirand, Laurent Sclafer
Television match official: Daniel Irazoqui

Grenoble vs Toulouse
Stade Lesdiguières, Grenoble

Toulouse will be keen to put in a much-improved performance at Stade Lesdiguières from the one that saw them lose to the Ospreys last weekend.

The rouge et noir came off second best to the Welsh region in Swansea, with scrum-half Luke Burgess at a loss to explain why they fell to the pivotal Pool defeat.

Meanwhile, head coach Guy Noves said ahead of this week's clash that he was full of admiration for Grenoble who were promoted to the Top 14 last season.

“Grenoble were very effective in the close season making some excellent signings,” he said.

“They are a very complete team and they are fully concentrated on the championship as they are less involved than us in Europe.

“That means that they have a time of recovery which is longer than for our players and they can put in extra preparation work which always helps promote a good side.”

Kick-off: 15:00 (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Cyril Lafon
Assistant referees: Salem Attalah, René Bordeneuve
Television match official: Philippe Bonhoure

Stade Francais vs Biarritz
Stade Charlety

It has been an eventful few weeks at Biarritz and this round they travel to Paris for what is their first game under the new Didier Faugeron and Laurent Rodriguez regime.

BO's recent Heineken Cup victory over Connacht should bring confidence to the side as they look to seal what would be a great victory.

Stade Français go into the game boosted by the news that former All Black hooker Aled de Malmanche has penned a three-year deal at the Paris outfit.

Kick-off: 18:30 (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite
Assistant referees: Adrien Descottes, Benoît Escoubet

Bayonne vs Mont de Marsan
Stade Jean Dauger, Bayonne

Bayonne will be desperate to pick up all five points against the basement side when the duo meet at Stade Jean Dauger.

They must be wary, however, that Mont-de-Marsan's only win so far this season came on the road against Racing Metro – which proved are more than capable of mixing it with the big boys.

Kick-off: 18:30 (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Jean-Luc Rebollal
Assistant referees: Laurent Millotte, Sébastien Hebert
Television match official: Hervé Dubes

Castres vs Racing Metro
Stade Pierre Antoine

Fourth meets ninth on Saturday as Castres set about improving from their somewhat poor performance that saw them sneak a victory over Glasgow.

While they won, it was not a showing the Stade Pierre Antoine faithful would have been impressed by as the Warriors were ahead for long stages.

Racing ,meanwhile, enjoyed a good win at Edinburgh and will thus enter with confidence as they look to avoid an eighth defeat in the penultimate round of 2012.

Kick-off: 18:30 (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Sébastien Clouté
Assistant referees: Tual Trainini, Christophe Clavere
Television match official: Jean-Marie Piraveau

Perpignan vs Montpellier
Stade Aimé Giral

Both these two sides enter on the back of European wins as USAP defeated Worcester to move level on points with the Warriors in Pool 2 of the Amlin Challenge Cup while Montpellier were impressive in beating Cardiff Blues.

Montpol racked up plenty of metres against the Blues in that Heineken Cup win, with Timoci Nagusa and Johnnie Beattie always a threat so they will hope to transfer European form to the domestic scene against the Catalans.

Kick-off: 18:30 (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Christophe Berdos
Assistant referees: Jean-Pierre Matheu, Dominique Parrini
Television match official: Laurent Valin

Agen vs Toulon
Stade Armandie, Agen

Barring an injury to Bakkies Botha, league leaders Toulon could not be in better shape as they prepare to face Agen at Stade Armandie in the late game.

Their 62-0 victory over Sale Sharks this past weekend was a glaring reminder to those in Europe and France that they can challenge on both fronts.

Agen's most recent outing resulted in a 39-9 win over Bucuresti but it is much sterner opposition they will face-off with on Saturday, which is illustrated by the heavyweights replacing Frederic Michalak with Jonny Wilkinson. Botha's blow is cushioned by the return in the high-quality back-row group of Chris Masoe.

The hosts have included new loan signing from Western Force, Ben Seymour, in their squad as they look to cause one of the shocks of the Top 14 season – and Toulon coach Pierre Mignoni had a warning for his talented and expensive squad, saying that they could not afford to take Agen for granted this week.

“That win (over Sale) gave us a lot of pleasure. When you play like that you can really achieve great things, But you have to look at who you are playing against and it is time to pass onto the next challenge,” he said.

Mignoni will no doubt remind his players that their three last vists to Agen all resulted