Top 14 Preview: Round 20

Date published: March 1 2013

Defending Top 14 champions Toulouse travel to current leaders Toulon in a weekend of massive fixtures across France.

Defending Top 14 champions Toulouse travel to current leaders Toulon in a weekend of massive fixtures across France.

The ever-fiery Basque derby kicks proceedings off on Friday with Biarritz seeking revenge for the one-point loss to Bayonne earlier in the season in front of a sold-out crowd.

On Saturday, fourth-placed Castres clash with fifth-placed Montpellier while Stade de France will play host to 2011 champions Clermont, who face a Stade Français side struggling to stay in contention for the play-offs.

At the other end of the table, Agen visit Bordeaux for an almighty showdown in the battle to avoid relegation.

Elsewhere, in-form Racing Métro host faltering Grenoble while Perpignan will hope to continue their revival away to Mont-de-Marsan.


Friday, March 1
Bayonne v Biarritz – Match preview here

Saturday, March 2
Stade Français v Clermont
Bordeaux-Bègles v Agen
Castres v Montpellier
Mont-de-Marsan v Perpignan
Racing Métro v Grenoble
Toulon v Toulouse

Rugby Union betting odds

1 Toulon 67
2 Clermont 64
3 Toulouse 60
4 Castres 54
5 Montpellier 53
6 Racing Metro 50
7 Grenoble 47
8 Perpignan 47
9 Stade Français 41
10 Biarritz 41
11 Bayonne 35
12 Agen 27
13 Bordeaux-Begles 25
14 Mont de Marsan 15


Stade Français Paris v ASM Clermont Auvergne
Stade de France, St. Denis (Paris)

Clermont have a chance to take a massive step towards automatic semi-final qualification on as their two direct rivals – Toulouse and Toulon – face off on the other side of the country. Victory in Paris would either give les Jaunards the championship lead or move them clear of Toulouse. Either way, with four out of six games at home in the run-in, four more championship points this weeekend would leave Clermont sitting pretty.

But the task in the French capital will not be easy as Stade Français are the only side to match Clermont's unbeaten record on home soil this season.

Stats-wise, this game looks to be heavily in Clermont's favour – with the joint-best attack in the Top 14 thanks to 45 tries and also the best defence.

Clermont could line-up a few of their Six Nations internationals but have confimred that Julien Bardy, Davit Zirakashvili and Wesley Fofana will be rested.

Julien Pierre, Benson Stanley, Loïc Jacquet and Sitiveni Sivivatu are injury doubts.

Previous result: Clermont won 28-25
Prediction: Clermont aren't always at their best in Paris. Stade Français to edge it.
Kick-off: 15.00 (14.00 GMT)
Referee: Pascal Gaüzère

Union Bordeaux-Bègles v SU Agen
Stade Jacques Chaban-Delmas, Bordeaux

Over 26 000 tickets have already been sold for what has turned into the biggest fixture of the season for both these clubs as the losers will find themsleves in deep relegation trouble.

Agen ended a nine-game losing streak by upsetting Toulouse three weeks ago and then climbed out of the drop zone thanks to a hard-fought win over Mont-de-Marsan last week.

Similarly, Bordeaux-Bègles crushed leaders Toulon to put a stop to a seven game-losing run. They've lost twice more since then but came terribly close to upsetting Montpellier on the road last week.

Previous result: Agen won 19-15
Prediction: UBB were impressive against Montpellier last week. Bordeaux-Bègles by six points
Kick-off: 18:30 (17.30 GMT)
Referee: Jérôme Garcès

Castres Olympique v Montpellier Hérault Rugby
Stade Pierre Antoine, Castres

A crucial battle in the race for the play-offs. CO and Montpellier are separated by a single point in the tussle for an all-important home play-off berth.

Montpellier will be worried about their form as they followed up a humiliating defeat in Toulon with a below-par perfromance on home soild against Bordeaux-Bègles last week.

By contrast, Castres seem to be on an upward curve after claiming a home win over Toulon last time out.

Montpellier edged out the earlier encounter between these two sides this season, but the losing bonus point that Castres picked up in the defeat is what separates the two in the league ahead of Saturday.

Montpellier will be without Pumas centre Santiago Fernandez, who has a fractured toe.

Previous result: Montpellier won 19-12
Prediction: Only the very brave would bet against Castres on home soil. Castres by six points
Kick-off: 18:30 (17.30 GMT)
Referee: Sébastien Clouté

Stade Montois v USA Perpignan
Stade Aimé Giral, Perpignan

Six wins in eight games have seen Perpignan launch a late run for the play-offs and the Catalans are now knocking on the door of top six and European qualification.

Scotland international Alasdair Strokosch should start for USAP. Perpignan wing Farid Sid has returned to training but fellow wing Richard Haughton has been ruled out with a calf injury. Hooker Guilhem Guirado (thigh) and Dan Leo ('flu) are doubtful.

Mont-de-Marsan on the other hand appear already doomed, with a fixture list after Perpignan including Racing, Castres and Montpellier.

Previous result: Perpignan won 15-6
Prediction: Mont-de-Marsan have only won tow games all season. USAP by seven points
Kick-off: 18:30 (17.30 GMT)
Referee: Cyril Lafon

Racing Métro 92 v FC Grenoble
Stade Yves Du Manoir – Colombes (Paris)

Racing are without doubt the in-form team in France at the moment having six consecutive games, including victories over leading duo.

Grenoble have gone off the boil a bit, losing three of their last four games. Last week's defeat to Clermont saw their impressive home winning streak finally broken and they have not won on road since the opening weekend.

Both sides though remain in contention to finish in the top six, with Saturday's points on offer proving invaluable.

Previous result: Grenoble won 27-13
Prediction: Grenoble are poor on the road.Racing to win with a bonus point
Kick-off: 18:30 (17.30 GMT)
Referee: Jean-Pierre Matheu