With just two rounds of the regular season remaining, the race for the Top 14 play-offs remains wide open
With just two rounds of the regular season remaining, the race for the Top 14 play-offs remains wide open.
In this most competitive and surprising of Top 14 seasons, only Montpellier have so far secured a play-off berth, although Clermont and European champions Toulon both need only a losing bonus point to take their places.
Racing are making a late charge for a home play-off while Toulon and Clermont must juggle their priorities a week before their European Cup semi-finals.
Toulouse are under pressure to produce the goods on the road as they visit as an Oyonnax side fighting for survival.
There is a four-way battle to avoid joining Biarritz in the second tier next season with Perpignan's clash with Toulon in Barcelona grabbing the headlines while Grenoble and Bayonne go head to head.
This weekend is all about the play-off permutations with even ninth-placed Brive, who travel to already-relegated Biarritz, also still in with a mathematical chance of making the cut off.
Friday, April 18
Castres v Montpellier
Saturday, April 19
Oyonnax v Toulouse
Perpignan v Toulon
Biarritz v Brive
Grenoble v Bayonne
Racing MÃ©tro v Clermont
Stade FranÃ§ais v Bordeaux-BÃ¨gles
Standings: – Remaining fixtures
1. Montpellier 70 – Castres (a); Racing (h)
2. Toulon 69 – Perpignan (a); Stade FranÃ§ais (h)
3. Clermont 69 – Racing (a); Perpignan (h)
4. Racing Metro 65 – Clermont (h); Montpellier (a)
5. Toulouse 62 – Oyonnax (a); Grenoble (h)
6. Castres 62 – Montpellier (h); Bayonne (a)
7. Bordeaux-Begles 59 – Stade FranÃ§ais (a); Biarritz (h)
8. Stade Francais 59 – Bordeaux (h); Toulon (a)
9. Brive 56 – Biarritz (a); Oyonnax (h)
10. Grenoble 51 – Bayonne (h); Toulouse (a)
11. Perpignan 50 – Toulon (h); Clermont (a)
12. Bayonne 48 – Grenoble (a); Castres (h)
13. Oyonnax 48 – Toulouse (h); Grenoble (a)
14. Biarritz 26 - Brive (h); Bordeaux (a)
US Oyonnax v Stade Toulousain
Stade Charles-Mathon, Oyonnax
The stakes are huge for both clubs as Toulouse are under pressure to make the play-offs while Oyonnax are fighting for survival. The game has been a sold out for weeks as Toulouse aim to succeed where Clermont, Castres and Toulon have failed.
Toulouse must win, preferably with a bonus point, if they are to save what has been their worst season in many years. Poor form on the road has been the root cause, with a scrappy win in Biarritz their only domestic success away from home this term.
But les Toulousains certainly are capable of producing the goods when it really counts, as shown by their victory over Saracens at Wembley in the Heineken Cup, so expect les rouge et noirs to come out firing.
There is set to be a peculier confrontation bewteen the front rows as 22-year-old tighthead Antoine Guillamon lines up for Oyonnax having been loaned from Toulouse earlier this season. Toulouse boss Guy NovÃ©s has confirmed that no clause exists that prevents Guillamon from playing against his former team-mates.
Remaining fixture for Oyonnax: v Brive (away)
Remaining fixture for Toulouse: v Grenoble (home)
Result in Round 12: Toulouse won 14-3
Kick-off: 14:55 local (12.45 GMT)
Referee: SÃ©bastien CloutÃ©
USA Perpignan v Rugby Club Toulonnais
Barcelona Olympic Stadium
Perpignan's last two matches couldn't be tougher with the seven-time champions hosting Toulon followed by a trip to Clermont, who beat them in the 2010 championship final.
USAP are under serious threat of joining Biarritz in the ProD2 next term so will be hoping for some inspiration from their Catalan fans across the Spanish border.
The hosts shouldn't expect any favours from Toulon though as RCT are fighting for a direct qualification for the semi-finals.
Perpignan have not beaten Toulon since their 2011 Heineken Cup quarter-final in Barlecona.
Perpignan have played two games at the Olympic Stadium before, beating Toulon in 2011 and Toulouse in 2012.
Toulon welcome back Carl Hayman, Joe van Niekerk and David Smith but haved rested Rudi Wulf, Juan Smith and Martin Castrogiovannil. Jonny Wilkinson, Danie Rossouw and Craig Burden are also absentees.
Remaining fixture for Perpignan: v Clermont (away)
Remaining fixture for Toulon: Stade FranÃ§ais (home)
Result in Round 12: Toulon won 15-9
Kick-off: 17:00 local (15:00 GMT)
Referee: Christophe Berdos
Biarritz Olympique v CA Brive-CorrÃ¨ze
Parc des Sports d'Aguilera, Biarritz
Biarritz's last game at the Aguilera before they drop out of the top division is set to be an emotional occasion as it will represent a farewell for a number of club icons including scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili and coach Laurent Rodriguez, who has had a bitter falling out with club president Serge Blanco.
Biarritz have lost nine times at home this season, but have beaten Brive in the last six meetings between these sides, including a rare win on the road in Round 12.
Brive's hopes of a Top 14 play-off berth pretty much ended in defeat to Toulouse last week but they are very much still in the running for seventh spot, synonymous with a chance of playing in the inaugural European Champions Cup, via a play-off with an English club. They will thus not lack motivation.
Remaining fixture for Biarritz: Bordeaux (away)
Remaining fixture for Brive: v Oyonnax (home)
Result in Round 12: Biarritz won 14-9
Kick-off: 18:30 local (16.30 GMT)
Referee: CÃ©dric Marchat
FC Grenoble v Aviron Bayonnais
Stade LesdiguiÃ¨res, Grenoble
Grenoble are feeling vulnerable having lost their last five matches. They host Bayonne before finishing their campaign away to Toulouse and anything other than a win Saturday could be fatal to their survival chances as another loss on home soil will throw Bayonne a lifeline.
Sitting comfortable in fourth place in February, the wheels have come off the bus at FCG, with coach Fabrice Landreau claiming his players grew complacent.
Defeat for Bayonne would leave the Basques with a massive task to stay up with the defending champions their visitors on the final weekend.
Remaining fixture for Grenoble: Toulouse (away)
Remaining fixture for Bayonne: v Castres (home)
Result in Round 12: Bayonne won 24-21
Kick-off: 18:30 local (16.30 GMT)
Racing MÃ©tro 92 v ASM Clermont