Top 14 Preview: Round 25

Date published: May 27 2016

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There are finals taking place in England and Scotland but in France we reach the penultimate week of the regular season and there is plenty going on.

The standout fixtures are both on Sunday with Toulouse hosting Clermont before Montpellier entertain Toulon in a game which has sparked a lot of debate this week.

Before that Racing 92 travel to La Rochelle on Friday night, while Bordeaux-Bègles kick things off on Saturday with a crucial match in their play-off battle against Brive.

There is less riding on Stade Français v Agen and Pau v Grenoble, but the evening clash between Oyonnax and Castres will be very important.

Fixtures
Friday

La Rochelle v Racing 92

Saturday
Bordeaux-Bègles v Brive
Stade Français v Agen
Pau v Grenoble
Oyonnax v Castres

Sunday
Toulouse v Clermont
Montpellier v Toulon


Bordeaux-Bègles v Brive
Stade Chaban Delmas, Bordeaux
 
A year after they missed out on the play-offs on the final day, it’s looking increasingly likely that Bordeaux will suffer the same fate this time around.
 
To give themselves a chance, Raphael Ibanez’s team need to beat Brive on Saturday – no easy feat in itself.
 
Do that and they will at least take it down to the final round of matches, but a daunting trip to Toulon to round off the season looms large.
 
Currently seventh, Bordeaux just missed out on a crucial win at Montpellier last time out, and now sit a point behind Castres in the race for the final spot.
 
For Brive, there is still plenty to play for as victory here and at home to Pau next week would likely secure them Champions Cup rugby next season at Bordeaux’s expense.
 
They have managed two wins on the road so far this season, but a third would come in very handy.
 
Teams:

Bordeaux-Bègles: tba

Brive: tba
 
Last year’s result: Bordeaux won 46-10
Kick-off: 15:30 local (14:30 GMT)
Referee: Alexandre Ruiz


Stade Français v Agen
MM Arena, Le Mans
 
The move to Le Mans was meant to be a money spinner for Stade, but given the way the season has gone, it could turn into a damp squib.
 
Gonzalo Quesada is down to the bare bones in the back row with Willem Alberts, Raphael Lakafia and Jono Ross out, while Antoine Burban and Sergio Parisse are also struggling.
 
Thankfully Stade are safe and have nothing else left to play for but it could be a very experience trio called into action.
 
As for Agen, it’s a penultimate game in the top flight before their return to Pro D2 but having conceded 104 points in their last two games, they will need an improvement and fast.
 
Teams:

Stade Français: tba

Agen: tba
 
Previous result: Stade won 20-13 in 2012
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Adrien Descottes


Pau v Grenoble
Stade du Hameau, Pau
 
In early April Pau and Grenoble were both victorious on the road, at Agen and Oyonnax respectively.
 
Since those away victories against the Top 14’s relegated pair, neither has won a match, managing just one losing bonus point from eight matches between them.
 
With that in mind it’s the chance to mix things up a little. Simon Mannix went with his young half-back pairing of Thibault Daubagna and Brandon Fajardo last week and they coped ok against Racing in difficult circumstances.
 
For their part Grenoble have been giving game time to the likes of Gilles Bosch and Lilian Siseras in the half-backs.
 
Teams:

Pau: tba

Grenoble: tba
 
Previous result:
Pau won 18-16 in 2012 in Pro D2
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Tual Trainini


Oyonnax v Castres
Stade Charles Mathon, Oyonnax
 
Christophe Urios returns to the club he led to such success over eight seasons as Castres travel to Oyonnax.
 
Having helped the Oyomen to promotion and then the play-offs, Urios returns to a club who are heading back to Pro D2.
 
There will be no time for sympathy with Castres in a huge battle for the top six and in need of a victory.
 
In fact a win on the road this weekend would guarantee that they head into the final weekend with a play-off spot in their own hands.
 
To do so they will be able to call on a number of players who should know the ground well, not least Benjamin Urdapilleta, who has been pulling the strings with aplomb for the men from the Tarn.
 
Teams:

Oyonnax: tba

Castres: tba
 
Last year’s result: Oyonnax won 23-13
Kick-off: 20:45 local (19:45 GMT)
Referee: Laurent Cardona


Toulouse v Clermont
Stade Ernest Wallon, Toulouse
 
Toulouse know that if they win out they could yet sneak a home barrage, but to do so they will have to beat their bête noir.
 
Clermont have won four in a row against les Rouge et Noir, including last year’s infamous win at Ernest Wallon when Toulouse took a late penalty for a losing bonus point rather than going for a draw.
 
That came despite a number of first teamers missing, and given their position at the top of the table, Clermont could use this game to rest a few players ahead of the play-offs.
 
They only need one win from their last two games to be assured top spot, while Toulouse are hoping to leapfrog Racing into fourth.
 
Toulouse will also bid farewell to Vincent Clerc, who it was confirmed will join Toulon next season after more than a decade at the club.
 
Teams:

Toulouse: tba

Clermont: tba
 
Last year’s result: Clermont won 13-9
Kick-off: 16:30 local (15:30 GMT)
Referee: Pascal Gauzère


Montpellier v Toulon
Altrad Stadium, Montpellier
 
Jake White kicked off his Montpellier reign with victory over Toulon, and could now take a giant step towards a home semi-final with victory on Sunday evening.
 
It may come at a cost though, with White having chosen to drop François Trinh-Duc from his squad, much to the dismay of many inside and outside the club.
 
Skipper Fulgence Ouedraogo voiced his displeasure on social media, before being called in for a chat with the president, but the banishment of the club’s most iconic player after more than 15 years does not sit well.
 
The fact that Trinh-Duc is heading to Toulon only adds to the intrigue, while both teams are desperate to finish second, sitting level on 77 points as it stands.
 
Montpellier will be without Bismarck du Plessis, who is suspended, but have been very strong at home.
 
Toulon come into the game off the back of a dominant display at Agen, and will be looking for more of the same.
 
Teams:

Montpellier: tba

Toulon: tba
 
Last year’s result: Montpellier won 16-12
Kick-off: 20:45 local (19:45 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite

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