Top 14 Preview: Round 16

Date published: January 6 2017

Round 16 of the Top 14 will feature just the six matches, with Racing 92 on European duty, but there are still plenty of big clashes at both ends of the table.

It all begins on Friday night where Bordeaux-Bègles will be looking to end a run of three straight defeats away at Montpellier.

Then on Saturday Grenoble face a daunting but must-win trip to Brive, and Lyon will be similarly desperate to win at Pau.

La Rochelle can then move temporarily top with victory over Castres on Saturday night.

On Sunday there are two huge battles, the clasico between Stade Français and Toulouse, followed by another of the huge games in the French calendar, Clermont hosting Toulon.



Montpellier v Bordeaux-Bègles


Brive v Grenoble
Pau v Lyon
La Rochelle v Castres


Stade Français v Toulouse
Clermont v Toulon

Montpellier v Bordeaux-Bègles
Altrad Stadium, Montpellier

It’s been a tricky Christmas period for Bordeaux-Bègles who have slipped from the top three to out of the play-off places with three straight losses in the league.

Next up they face a tricky encounter with Montpellier, who beat them on their own patch earlier this season.

Jake White’s side were on the wrong end of a thrilling encounter with Pau last time out, but still remain well-placed to challenge for a top two finish this season.

They have a huge European fixture coming up next with a potentially decisive trip to Leinster, but White already appears to have written off the possibility of progressing to the quarter-finals.

Whether that is just a bluff remains to be seen, but he’s named a virtually full strength side for this one.

Bordeaux have made a couple of changes from the side that lost at Lyon, notably bringing Yann Lesgourgues in for Baptiste Serin and dropping Adam Ashley-Cooper to the bench.

They have also lost Jefferson Poirot and Marco Tauleigne to long-term injuries, putting increased pressure on the depth of their squad.

Montpellier: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Vincent Martin, 12 Joe Tomane, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Frans Steyn, 9 Nic White, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Akapusi Qera, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5 Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Davit Kubriashvili 2 Shalva Mamukashvili, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili
Replacements: 16 Romain Ruffenach, 17 Grégory Fichten, 18 Konstantin Mikautadze, 19 Antoine Battut, 20 Tomas O’Leary, 21 Ben Botica, 22 Henri Immelman, 23 Jannie du Plessis

Bordeaux-Bègles: 15 Jean-Marcellin Buttin, 14 Jean-Baptiste Dubié, 13 Jayden Spence, 12 Romain Lonca, 11 Blair Connor, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Yann Lesgourgues, 8 Loann Goujon, 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 Sébastien Taofifenua, 18 Berend Botha, 19 Louis-Benoit Madaule, 20 Baptiste Serin, 21 Ian Madigan, 22 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 23 Marc Clerc

Last year’s result: Montpellier won 19-16
Kick-off: 20:45 local (19:45 GMT)
Referee: Maxime Chalon

Brive v Grenoble
Stade Amédée Domenech, Brive

Narrowly beaten at Stade Français last weekend, Brive’s top six hopes look to be fading fast as they settle into the lower reaches of the table.

They still have a 14-point buffer to the relegation spots, with Saturday’s visitors Grenoble trying to close that gap.

Victory would likely end any remaining suspense of the identity of the relegated sides, and it’s asking a lot of Grenoble to go and win at Amédée Domenech, where Brive have lost only once all season – to Clermont – with La Rochelle the only other team to even pick up a point in Corrèze.

For their part, Grenoble have managed losing bonus points at Clermont and Racing, but are still searching for a first win, and are in very real danger of being cut adrift at the foot of the table.

Last week’s loss at La Rochelle was the latest indication that a survival act may be beyond them. Time for Bernard Jackman’s team to prove some people wrong!

Brive: 15 Gaëtan Germain, 14 Benjamin Lapeyre, 13 Arnaud Mignardi, 12 Seremaia Burotu, 11 Guillaume Namy, 10 Thomas Laranjeira, 9 Teddy Iribaren, 8 Sisa Koyamaibole, 7 Petrus Hauman, 6 Said Hireche, 5 Johan Snyman, 4 Julien Ledevedec, 3 Damien Jourdain, 2 Francois da Ros, 1 Karlen Asieshvili
Replacements: 16 Thomas Acquier, 17 Kevin Buys, 18 Arnaud Mela, 19 Fabien Sanconnie, 20 Jean-Baptiste Pejoine, 21 Matthieu Ugalde, 22 Sevenaia Galala, 23 Patrick-Albert Toetu

Grenoble: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Lucas Dupont, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Fabrice Estebanez, 11 Xavier Mignot, 10 Gilles Bosch, 9 Lilian Saseras, 8 Rory Grice, 7 Fabien Alexandre, 6 Aly Muldowney, 5 Mickaël Capelli, 4 Hendrik Roodt, 3 Dayna Edwards, 2 Arnaud Heguy, 1 Alexandre Dardet
Replacements: 16 Loïck Jammes, 17 Denis Coulson, 18 Thomas Jolmes, 19 Dylan Hayes, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Jonathan Wisniewski, 22 Armand Batlle, 23 Walter Desmaison

Last year’s result: Brive won 45-24
Kick-off: 14:45 local (13:45 GMT)
Referee: Cedric Marchat

Pau v Lyon
Stade du Hameau, Pau

Two teams that beat play-off contenders last weekend, Pau’s win over Montpellier was arguably more impressive than Lyon’s against Bordeaux-Bègles.

Defence remains an issue for Pau, who have conceded more points than every team except the bottom two, but they look to have plenty of firepower out wide.

They were dealt a blow this week with injuries to both first choice centres, Jale Vatubua and Conrad Smith.

How much that effects try-scoring duo Watisoni Votu and Louis Dupichot will be crucial to their hopes for the season – before the potential arrival of Ben Smith next year!

Lyon are still peering over their shoulders at Grenoble but look to have given themselves a great chance of avoiding relegation for the first time in the Top 14.

They have also won three in a row against Pau, although this will be the first meeting between the sides in the Top 14.

Pau: 15 Tom Taylor, 14 Louis Dupichot, 13 Julien Fumat, 12 Watisoni Votu, 11 Mosese Ratuvou, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Thibault Daubagna, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Ben Mowen, 5 Julien Pierre, 4 Fabrice Metz, 3 Malik Hamadache, 2 Thomas Bianchin, 1 Jamie Mackintosh
Replacements: 16 Quentin Lespiaucq, 17 Julien Jacquot, 18 Masalosalo Tutaia, 19 Daniel Ramsay, 20 Paddy Butler, 21 Charly Malie, 22 Taniela Moa, 23 Sylvain Charlet

Lyon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Toby Arnold, 13 Paul Bonnefond, 12 Hemani Paea, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Frédéric Michalak, 9 Nicolas Durand, 8 Carl Fearns, 7 Deon Fourie, 6 Julien Puricelli, 5 Thibault Privat, 4 Felix Lambey, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Ti'I Paulo, 1 Albertus Buckle
Replacements: 16 Mickael Ivaldi, 17 Alexandre Menini, 18 Josh Bekhuis, 19 Taiasina Tuifua, 20 Baptiste Couilloud, 21 Thibault Regard, 22 Mike Harris, 23 David Attoub

Previous result: Lyon won 22-19 in Pro D2 in 2014
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Mathieu Raynal

La Rochelle v Castres
Stade Marcel Deflandre, La Rochelle

La Rochelle insist they are not getting carried away with their success this season but it must be getting hard work after moving into second last weekend with a thumping win over Grenoble.

They can even go top with victory against Castres, at least for 24 hours until Clermont play.

That should be more of a challenge than last Sunday, but La Rochelle are still unbeaten at home this year, albeit with three draws.

Christophe Urios’ side had slipped out of the top six but hammered Bayonne last week with a brilliant second-half display.

Without too many internationals absent during the Six Nations, Castres look an increasingly good bet to make the top six. If they can become the first team to win at Marcel Deflandre, that will only help their cause.

La Rochelle: 15 Zack Holmes, 14 Gabriel Lacroix,13 Pierre Aguillon, 12 Levani Botia, 11 Kini Murimurivalu, 10 Brock James, 9 Alexis Bales, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Kévin Gourdon, 6 Romain Sazy, 5 Jone Qovu Nailiko, 4 Jason Eaton, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Jérémie Maurouard, 1 Mike Corbel
Replacements: 16 Hikairo Forbes, 17 Dany Priso, 18 Mathieu Tanguy, 19 Afaesetiti Amosa, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Paul Jordaan, 22 Steeve Barry, 23 Mohamed Boughanmi

Castres: 15 Geoffrey Palis, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Thomas Combezou, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 David Smith, 10 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Maama Vaipulu, 7 Anthony Jelonch, 6 Mathieu Babillot, 5 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 4 Lo%u200Bïc Jacquet, 3 Daniel Kotze, 2 Jody Jenneker, 1 Mihaita Lazar
Replacements: 16 Brice Mach, 17 Antoine Tichit, 18 Victor Moreaux, 19 Alexandre Bias, 20 Antoine Dupont, 21 Afusipa Taumoepeau, 22 Julien Dumora, 23 Yohann Montes

Last year’s result: La Rochelle won 25-21
Kick-off: 20:45 local (19:45 GMT)
Referee: Thomas Charabas

Stade Français v Toulouse
Stade Jean Bouin, Paris

Stade Français have won just one of their last eight encounters with Toulouse – the clasico very much going the way of the men from la Ville Rose.

However this year Gonzalo Quesada’s men remain unbeaten at home, even if they’ve not always been entirely convincing.

The first time the teams met this year Toulouse made heavy weather of seeing off 14 men with Sergio Parisse red-carded for a dangerous tackle in the first half.

Stade will be looking to even the score, but face a Toulouse side that is rounding into some form and desperately needs to pick up points on the road before losing players to the Six Nations.

The visitors will also have half an eye on their trip to Wasps next weekend, but a loss here could see them drop out of the top six again.

Last year’s result: Stade Français won 18-17
Kick-off: 16:15 local (15:15 GMT)
Referee: Alexandre Ruiz

Clermont v Toulon
Stade Marcel Michelin, Clermont-Ferrand

Clermont rested a number of players at Toulouse last week but they will hold nothing back against a Toulon team with whom they have a lot of history.

Last season Toulon produced one of the performances of the campaign as they picked up a bonus-point success at the Marcel Michelin, stopping Clermont from scoring a try at home for the first time in five years.

This season it was Toulon who ended Clermont’s unbeaten start to the season, but as scrum-half Sébastien Tillous-Borde admits, they will have to be much better than they have been in recent weeks to overcome the leaders.

Toulon can count on the form of centre Mathieu Bastareaud, who excelled against Racing 92. Against Clermont, however, brute force probably won’t be enough.

Last year’s result: Toulon won 35-9
Kick-off: 21:00 local (20:00 GMT)
Referee: Pierre Brousset