Top 14 Preview: Round 19

Date published: March 19 2016

The Six Nations is ongoing but the Top 14 charges on regardless with a couple of big derbies this weekend.

Fresh from their derby defeat, Stade Français kick things off at home to La Rochelle, while Montpellier can cement their place in the play-off hunt against second-placed Racing 92.

Later on Saturday Pau host Castres and then bottom two Oyonnax and Agen face off in a huge battle at Charles Mathon.
On Sunday Grenoble take on Brive before the pick of the weekend’s ties sees Toulouse travel to Clermont.


Stade Français v La Rochelle
Montpellier v Racing 92
Pau v Castres
Oyonnax v Agen

Grenoble v Brive
Clermont v Toulouse

Stade Français v La Rochelle
Stade Jean Bouin, Paris
Stade Français were competitive for much of their derby clash with Racing 92, but ill-discipline cost them dear.

Two yellow cards and a red over the space of six minutes turned a tight match into a bonus point loss for Stade, and they will be desperate to bounce back against La Rochelle.

Realistically there is little left to play for at Stade, they are comfortably clear of the bottom two, and never going to make the top six.

We have seen teams sucked into relegation battles though in the past, and they will know that a win here would just keep any fears of the drop at bay.

For La Rochelle this is a chance to build on a big win at home to Pau last time out, even if they are similarly settled into the mid table in the Top 14.

Stade Français: 15 Hugo Bonneval, 14 Julien Arias, 13 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Djibril Camara, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Julien Dupuy, 8 Jono Ross, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Sylvain Nicolas, 5 Pascal Pape, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Laurent Sempere, 1 Emmanuel Felsina
Replacements: 16 Remy Bonfils, 17 Aled de Malmanche, 18 Gerhard Mostert, 19 Raphael Lakafia, 20 Clement Daguin, 21 Paul Williams, 22 Jeremy Sinzelle, 23 Adrien Oleon

La Rochelle: 15 Pierre Berard, 14 Mali Hingano, 13 Jean Pascal Barraque, 12 Lepani Botia Veivuke, 11 Kini Murimurivalu, 10 Fabien Fortassin, 9 Julien Audy, 8 Kevin Gourdon, 7 Afaesetiti Amosa, 6 Zeno Kieft, 5 Jone Qovu Nailiko, 4 Jason Eaton, 3 David Fe'ao, 2 Hikairo Forbes, 1 Thomas Synaeghel
Replacements: 16 Jordan Seneca, 17 Mike Corbel, 18 Damien Lagrange, 19 Romain Sazy, 20 Jules Lebail, 21 Zack Holmes, 22 Pierre Aguillon, 23 Gagi Bazadze

Last year’s result: Stade won 43-10
Kick-off: 14:00 local (13:00 GMT)
Referee: Salem Attalah

Montpellier v Racing 92
Altrad Stadium, Montpellier
As the weeks go on, Montpellier look increasingly like a team that could be tough to beat in the play-offs under Jake White.

Their style is not complicated, but when you have a pair locks like the bulldozing Paul Willemse and the incredibly athletic Jacques du Plessis, that’s not a surprise.

This Saturday they will fancy their chances of turning over high-flying Racing, who have rested a number of players including Dan Carter.

Rémi Talès starts in his place, but just as interesting might be the inclusion of Louis Dupichot, who has looked a star on the occasions he has played.

A year ago Racing won this clash right at the start of the season against 14 men. Another win and they will move back to the top of the table with ten games to go.

Montpellier: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Benjamin Fall, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Benoit Paillaugue, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Akapusi Qera, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Jacques Du Plessis, 3 Davit Kubriashvili, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Yvan Watremez
Replacements: 16 Mickael Ivaldi, 17 Oleg Ishchenko, 18 Thibault Privat, 19 Wian Liebenberg, 20 Nic White, 21 Ben Lucas, 22 Marvin O'Connor, 23 Nicolas Mas

Racing 92: 15 Johan Goosen, 14 Albert Vulivuli, 13 Etienne Dussartre, 12 Alexandre Dumoulin, 11 Louis Dupichot, 10 Remi Tales, 9 Xavier Chauveau, 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Luc Barba, 6 Yannick Nyanga Kabasele, 5 Thibault Dubarry, 4 Juandre Kruger, 3 Cedate Gomes Sa, 2 Virgile Lacombe, 1 Davit Khinchagashvili
Replacements: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Khatchik Vartanov, 18 Francois van der Merwe, 19 Antonie Claassen, 20 Marc Andreu, 21 Benjamin Dambielle, 22 Joe Rokocoko, 23 Ben Tameifuna

Last year’s result: Racing won 19-16
Kick-off: 14:15 local (13:15 GMT)
Referee: Mathieu Raynal

Pau v Castres
Stade du Hameau, Pau 

The outsiders for a top six spot, Castres certainly did their chances no harm with a thumping win over Agen last week.

David Smith scored four tries in that game, and has since reaffirmed his ambition to play for France – which would require him to turn his hand back to Sevens over the coming months.

Pau, meanwhile, were well-beaten at La Rochelle, but have recalled a number of regular starters for this one.

Currently sitting in 12th, a win would be huge for Pau, who know that at least one of the sides below them is guaranteed to close the game this weekend.

They certainly won’t be lacking experience with a backline featuring Damien Traille, Sireli Bobo and Conrad Smith.

Pau: 15 Damien Traille, 14 Sireli Bobo, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Jale Vatubua, 11 Julien Fumat, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Samuel Marques, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Paddy Butler, 6 Daniel Ramsay, 5 Abdellatif Boutaty, 4 Julien Pierre, 3 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 2 Mehdi Boundjema, 1 Julien Jacquot
Replacements: 16 Thomas Bianchin, 17 Chris King, 18 Jovili Domolailai, 19 Jean Bouilhou, 20 Thibault Daubagna, 21 Brandon Fajardo, 22 Watisoni Votu, 23 Euan Murray

Castres: 15 Geoffrey Palis, 14 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 13 Thomas Combezou, 12 Remi Lamerat, 11 David Smith, 10 Julien Dumora, 9 Julien Seron, 8 Alex Tulou, 7 Mathieu Babillot, 6 Alexandre Bias, 5 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 4 Christophe Samson, 3 Karena Wihongi, 2 Marc-Antoine Rallier, 1 Antoine Tichit
Replacements: 16 Mihai Lazar, 17 Julien Beziat, 18 Yohan Montes, 19 Benjamin Desroches, 20 Johnnie Beattie, 21 Piula Faasalele, 22 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 23 Julien Caminati

Previous result: Castres won 27-25 in 2006
Kick-off: 18:00 local (17:00 GMT)
Referee: Maxime Chalon

Oyonnax v Agen
Stade Charles Mathon, Oyonnax

Possibly the most important game of the round takes place at Charles Mathon, where the loser will effectively be down.

With Agen nine points from safety, and Oyonnax a point further back, a loss here would be disastrous for either’s hopes of survival.

Last week Oyonnax were convincingly beaten at home to Montpellier, and they seem to have lost the grit that made them so tough to beat last season.

They have already made a move ahead of next season with Stade Français’ Adrien Buonanato joining the coaching staff.

He will hope it’s in the Top 14, and that will require a win against Agen. Nicky Robinson returns at fly-half and should make a difference.

For Agen, last week’s loss at Castres was a tough one, but they have not been able to make wholesale changes.

Oyonnax: 15 Silvere Tian, 14 Dug Codjo, 13 Jimmy Yobo, 12 Roimata Hansell-Pune, 11 Uwanakaro Tawalo, 10 Nicky Robinson, 9 Arthur Aziza, 8 Pedrie Wannenburg, 7 Olivier Missoup, 6 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 5 Fabrice Metz, 4 George Robson, 3 Marc Clerc, 2 Jody Jenneker, 1 Laurent DelBoulbes
Replacements: 16 Thomas Bordes, 17 Lukas Rapant, 18 Leon Power, 19 Pierrick Gunther, 20 Fabien Cibray, 21 Regis Lespinas, 22 Keziah Giordano, 23 Stan Wright

Agen: 15 Mathieu Lamoulie, 14 George Tilsley, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Lionel Mazars, 11 Pierre Fouyssac, 10 Burton Francis, 9 Alexis Bales, 8 Luke Hamilton, 7 Sione Tau, 6 Marco Kotze, 5 William Demotte, 4 Api Ratuniyarawa, 3 Dave Ryan, 2 Jalil Narjissi, 1 Arsene Nnomo
Replacements: 16 Mike Tadjer, 17 Viliamu Afatia, 18 Marc Baget-Rabarou, 19 Antoine Erbani, 20 Clement Darbo, 21 François Bouvier, 22 Benoit Sicart, 23 Arthur Joly

Previous result: Oyonnax won 12-10 in 2009 in Pro D2
Kick-off: 18:00 local (17:00 GMT)
Referee: Jérôme Garcès

Grenoble v Brive
Stade des Alpes, Grenoble

The last time these two teams met at the Stade des Alpes was one of the best matches of last season. This time around the fixture pits two teams who are struggling somewhat, against each other.

Brive haven’t won in the league since January, and now look a very long shot to reach the play-offs, while Grenoble were thumped at Toulon last time out.

Having said that, the pressure is off with neither team in danger of relegation, while a win could spark an unlikely play-off push.

Grenoble: tbc

Brive: tbc

Last year’s result: Grenoble won 26-25
Kick-off: 14:00 local (13:00 GMT)
Referee: Sébastien Minery

Clermont v Toulouse
Stade Marcel Michelin, Clermont

One of the most enticing fixtures in French rugby, but two teams in very different form will meet at the Stade Marcel Michelin.

Where Clermont have bounced back from their January blues, Toulouse have been hit hard by the Six Nations, and poor goal-kicking.

Two draws and a loss could and probably should have been three wins in their last three games, which would have put Toulouse top heading into this game.

Instead they are fifth and looking over their shoulder in the bid for a top six spot, the last thing you want before a trip to Clermont.

Les Jaunards are getting back close to their best, with their Fijian-born trio of Peceli Yato, Alivereti Raka and Noa Nakaitaci all on fire last week against Brive.

In the final week before the return of the internationals, Clermont will hope to take advantage of Toulouse’s struggles and move back into the top two.

Clermont: tbc 

Toulouse: tbc 

Last year’s result: Clermont won 24-6
Kick-off: 16:15 local (15:15 GMT)
Referee: Mathieu Noirot