Top 14 Preview: Round 15

Date published: December 30 2016

As we head into 2017 and the second half of the Top 14 season there are a few mouthwatering clashes including a rematch of last season’s final.

It all kicks off on Friday when Lyon host Bordeaux-Bègles, before Pau take on Montpellier on Saturday.

Castres and Bayonne will be looking to put Christmas defeats behind them when they face off, while Stade Français need a win at home to Brive.

Saturday evening sees a huge clash between Toulouse and leaders Clermont while on Sunday La Rochelle host Grenoble.

And to finish off it will be the champions Racing 92 travelling to take on the team they beat in Barcelona, Toulon.



Lyon v Bordeaux-Bègles


Pau v Montpellier
Castres v Bayonne
Stade Français v Brive
Toulouse v Clermont


La Rochelle v Grenoble
Toulon v Racing 92

Lyon v Bordeaux-Bègles
Matmut Stadium, Lyon

Bordeaux endured a disastrous outing at home to Pau last weekend, suffering a shock home defeat to dent their play-off hopes.

Having rested a number of players in Europe the week before, they looked far from their best, with the home crowd voicing their displeasure and even booing rising star Baptiste Serin for some wayward goal-kicking.

Raphaël Ibanez will expect a result against a Lyon team who were well-beaten at Brive.

Pierre Mignoni’s side had looked well-placed to avoid a relegation battle earlier this season but with just a six-point buffer to Grenoble in 13th, they really need to win this one. They won’t lack experience, but will face a Bordeaux side that welcomes back France prop Jefferson Poirot on the bench on his return from injury.

The teams:

Lyon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Toby Arnold, 13 Théo Belan, 12 Hemani Paea, 11 Napolioni Nalaga, 10 Mike Harris, 9 Freddie Michalak, 8 Carl Fearns, 7 Virgile Bruni, 6 Julien Puricelli, 5 Thibaut Privat, 4 Taisina Tuifua, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Mickaël Ivaldi, 1 Alexandre Menini
Replacements: 16 Ti’i Paulo, 17 Albertus Buckle, 18 Josh Bekhuis, 19 Deon Fourie, 20 Baptiste Couilloud, 21 Thibaut Regard, 22 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 23 BJ Botha

Bordeaux-Bègles: 15 Jean-Marcellin Buttin, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Jayden Spence, 12 Julien Rey, 11 Blair Connor, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Marco Tauleigne, 7 Hugh Chalmers, 6 Luke Braid, 5 Cyril Cazeaux, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 2 Clement Maynadier, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16 Ole Avei, 17 Jefferson Poirot, 18 Berend Botha, 19 Louis-Benoit Madaule, 20 Yann Lesgourgues, 21 Ian Madigan, 22 Romain Lonca, 23 Marc Clerc

Previous result: Bordeaux won 37-22 in 2015
Kick-off: 20:45 local (19:45 GMT)
Referee: Tual Trainini

Pau v Montpellier
Stade du Hameau, Pau

Pau produced arguably the performance of the round last week with victory at Bordeaux and if they can turn over another play-off contender they will start to push towards the top half of the table.

Currently in tenth, only six points separate them from the play-off places, but turning over Jake White’s Montpellier will be a challenge.

They were impressive in victory over Toulon last week, in a game that was more one-sided than the final score suggested.

And with Clermont also on the road this week, Montpellier could even close the gap at the top of the table with a win on the road.

The teams:

Pau: 15 Tom Taylor, 14 Louis Dupichot, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Jale Kaikadavu Vatubua, 11 Watisoni Votu, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Thibault Daubagna, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Paddy Butler, 5 Julien Pierre, 4 Fabrice Metz, 3 Malik Hamadache, 2 Thomas Bianchin, 1 Jamie Mackintosh
Replacements: 16 Quentin Lespiaucq, 17 Geoffrey Moise, 18 Masalosalo Tutaia, 19 Dan Ramsay, 20 Ben Mowen, 21 Charly Malie, 22 Unalotokipulotu Vea Teutau, 23 Sylvain Charlet

Montpellier: 15 Henri Immelman, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Joe Tomane, 12 François Steyn, 11 Joffrey Michel, 10 Demetri Catrakalis, 9 Tomas O'Leary, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Akapusi Qera, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Antoine Battut, 3 Jannie Du Plessis, 2 Romain Ruffenach, 1 Yvan Watremez
Replacements: 16 Shalva Mamukashvili, 17 Gregory Fichten, 18 Julien Delannoy, 19 Nicolaas Janse Van Rensburg, 20 Nic White, 21 Yvan Reilhac, 22 Duhan Van Der Merwe, 23 Antoine Guillamon

Last year’s result: Pau won 26-16
Kick-off: 13:00 local (12:00 GMT)
Referee: Salem Attalah

Castres v Bayonne
Stade Pierre Antoine, Castres

Castres were dealt a major blow this week with the news that number eight Alex Tulou will be out for three months with injury.

The former Montpellier star has been a key figure in the Castres back row since his arrival at Pierre Antoine and will be sorely missed.

Christophe Urios has been able to call on two promising young Frenchmen in his back row this season though, with Mathieu Babillot and Anthony Jelonch really coming into their own.

They will have increased responsibilities against Bayonne, who were well-beaten on home soil by La Rochelle last week.

Sitting at the foot of the table as it stands, things look bleak for Vincent Etcheto’s side, who struggle to score enough points to have a chance of survival.

The teams:

Castres: 15 Pierre Berard, 14 Remy Grosso, 13 Afusipa Faha Ivalu Taumoepeau, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 David Smith, 10 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 9 Antoine Dupont, 8 Maama Vaipulu, 7 Alexandre Bias, 6 Yannick Caballero, 5 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 4 Thibault Lassalle, 3 Daniel Kotze, 2 Jody Jenneker, 1 Antoine Tichit
Replacements: 16 Brice Mach, 17 Mihaïta Lazar, 18 Victor Moreaux, 19 Steve Mafi, 20 Julien Seron, 21 Julien Dumora, 22 Thomas Combezou, 23 Yohan Montes

Bayonne: 15 Benjamin Thiery, 14 Martin Laveau, 13 Gabiriele Lovobalavu, 12 Thibault Lacroix, 11 Julien Jane, 10 Willem Du Plessis, 9 Guillaume Rouet, 8 John Beattie, 7 Baptiste Chouzenoux, 6 Tanerau Latimer, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 PJ Van Lill, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Manu Leiataua, 1 Jerome Schuster
Replacements: 16 Simon Labouyrie, 17 Aretz Iguiniz, 18 Guillaume Ducat, 19 Jean Joseph Marmouyet, 20 Emmanuel Saubusse, 21 Raphael Lagarde, 22 Romain Martial, 23 Tomaakino Taufua

Previous result: Castres won 30-6 in 2014
Kick-off: 15:00 local (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Adrien Descottes

Stade Français v Brive
Stade Jean Bouin, Paris

A big defeat at Clermont was another blow to Stade’s play-off hopes and while they are only six points off the top six, it’s difficult to see them turning things around.

More important may be putting new coach Greg Cooper in a good position for next season, and that involves some good performances from those who will still be in the French capital.

They host a Brive team who have lost five straight on the road this season, with their only away victory coming at Mayol against Toulon.

They were convincing winners against Lyon last week though, and if they can finally produce their home form away from Amédée Domenech, they might get back in the race for the top six.

The teams:

Stade Français: 15 Hugo Bonneval, 14 Waisea Vuidravuwalu, 13 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Jeremy Sinzelle, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Will Genia, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Raphael Lakafia, 6 Sekou Macalou, 5 Paul Gabrillagues, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Remi Bonfils, 1 Emmanuel Felsina
Replacements: 16 Laurent Sempere, 17 Zurabi Zhvania, 18 Pascal Papé, 19 Mathieu De Giovanni, 20 Clement Daguin, 21 Jules Plisson, 22 Julien Arias, 23 Giorgi Melikidze

Brive: 15 Gaëtan Germain, 14 Benjamin Lapeyre, 13 Arnaud Mignardi, 12 Seremaia Nakala Burotu, 11 Guillaume Namy, 10 Thomas Laranjeira, 9 Teddy Iribaren, 8 Petrus Hauman, 7 Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 6 Said Hireche, 5 Johan Snyman, 4 Julien Ledevedec, 3 Damien Jourdain, 2 Guillaume Ribes, 1 Vivien Devisme
Replacements: 16 Francois Da Ros, 17 Damien Lavergne, 18 Jan Uys, 19 Sisaro Koyamaibole, 20 Jean Baptiste Pejoine, 21 Romain Cabannes, 22 Benito Masilevu, 23 Albert Toetu

Last year’s result: Stade won 32-17
Kick-off: 15:00 local (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Laurent Cardona

Toulouse v Clermont
Stadium Municipal, Toulouse

Seven wins and seven losses is not acceptable for Toulouse, who are outside the play-off places at the halfway point of the season.

They had their chances to beat Grenoble, but as has so often been the case this year, they let the win slip away from them on the road.

At home only Toulon have managed a win, and Clermont will arrive with a number of players rested and having taken a longer holiday than their rivals.

Franck Azéma’s team can afford to do that because of their start to the year, but they also have the strength in depth to beat anyone even with a weakened side.

It’s a game Toulouse simply have to win, but they have often struggled against Clermont in the past – even if they were arguably the better side last time the teams met in October.

The teams:

Toulouse: 15 Maxime Médard, 14 Arthur Bonneval, 13 Florian Fritz, 12 Gaël Fickou, 11 Yoann Huget, 10 Jean Marc Doussain, 9 Sebastien Bezy, 8 Francois Cros, 7 Talalelei Gray, 6 Thierry Dusautoir, 5 Iosefa Tekori, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Dorian Aldegheri, 2 Christopher Tolofua, 1 Cyril Baille
Replacements: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Piula Faasalele, 19 Gregory Lamboley, 20 Carl Axtens, 21 Luke McAlister, 22 Yann David, 23 Nicolaas Johannes Van Dyk

Clermont: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Adrien Plante, 13 Benson Stanley, 12 Isaia Toeava, 11 Alivereti Raka, 10 Patricio Fernandez, 9 Charlie Cassang, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Alexandre Lapandry, 6 Peceli Yato, 5 Paul Jedrasiak, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Clement Ric, 2 John Ulugia, 1 Raphael Chaume
Replacements: 16 Yohan Beheregaray, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 19 Judicael Cancoriet, 20 Arthur Iturria, 21 Morgan Parra, 22 Rémi Lamerat, 23 Aaron Jarvis

Last year’s result: Toulouse won 22-11
Kick-off: 17:00 local (16:00 GMT)
Referee: Pascal Gauzère

La Rochelle v Grenoble
Stade Marcel Deflandre, La Rochelle

Gabriel Lacroix became the first Frenchman to score four tries in a Top 14 game last week as he ran riot in 11 second-half minutes against Bayonne.

There had been some whispers about a potential call-up for France in the Six Nations, and those will only grow if he continues his scoring form.

Reminiscent of Vincent Clerc in the way he is in the right place at the right time, he will face the Grenoble team where Clerc first broke through – wearing a scrum cap like Lacroix.

Grenoble picked up an important win against Toulouse last time out, and if Jonathan Wisniewski can stay fit, Bernard Jackman’s side could yet get out of trouble. Winning at Marcel Deflandre would help their cause, but no one has yet managed it this season.

Last year’s result: La Rochelle won 33-16
Kick-off: 16:15 local (15:15 GMT)
Referee: Pierre Brousset

Toulon v Racing 92
Stade Felix Mayol, Toulon

One of the headline fixtures in the Top 14 these days, Racing will be looking for a fourth straight win over Toulon after successes in both the Top 14 final and ending the Varois’ long European reign.

The victory in Barcelona obviously came with 14 men after Maxime Machenaud’s red card, and the scrum-half is currently under pressure with young Xavier Chauveau having impressed recently.

When the teams met earlier in the season it was the Juan Imhoff show, the Argentine grabbing a hat-trick and making a strong case for being the best finisher in the Top 14.

Racing will need more of the same against the team directly above them in the table, but Toulon should be much-improved on last week’s display at Montpellier.

They could also have Cornal Hendricks involved after he joined them this week on his medical joker deal.

Last year’s result: Racing won 27-22
Kick-off: 20:45 local (19:45 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite