Top 14 Preview: Round 4

Date published: September 9 2016

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It’s been an eventful week in France, particularly in the south east where Toulon have been rumoured to be looking for a replacement for Diego Dominguez after just three matches.

For now Dominguez will continue in his role as Toulon travel to Toulouse on Sunday for the final game of the weekend in need of a win.

That will follow top side Brive’s trip to winless Grenoble in a huge game in the Alps.

On the Saturday Stade Français will again be in the early game, taking on Castres, a week after their stunning draw against Clermont.

Joint leaders La Rochelle host Lyon, fresh from a first win, while Bordeaux-Bègles have to win after last week’s loss to Montpellier, as they take on Bayonne.

Montpellier take on Pau, with both teams having got off the mark last time out, while unbeaten Clermont host champions Racing in the pick of the games on Saturday.

Fixtures

Saturday

Stade Français v Castres
Montpellier v Pau
La Rochelle v Lyon
Bordeaux-Bègles v Bayonne
Clermont v Racing 92

Sunday

Grenoble v Brive
Toulouse v Toulon


Stade Français v Castres
Stade Jean Bouin, Paris

Last weekend the game of the round undoubtedly came in Paris where Stade Français scored at the death to draw with Clermont.

That leaves them with a win, a draw and a loss from their first three games, but questions are being asked of Jules Plisson, who was this week described as a good club fly-half by Sébastien Chabal.

He will have to prove that he can be more than that against a Castres team who came under fire for a defeat on home soil to La Rochelle last time out.

Christophe Urios was fuming at that result, and the mindset of his players, and even days later was struggling to come to terms with the loss.

Expect Castres to be much improved this weekend, but will it be enough to down Stade on their own patch?

The teams:

Stade Français: 15 Hugo Bonneval, 14 Julien Arias, 13 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Waisea Vuidravuwalu, 10 Jules Plisson, 9 Julien Dupuy, 8 Willem Alberts, 7 Sylvain Nicolas, 6 Antoine Burban, 5 Paul Gabrillagues, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Laurent Sempere, 1 Heinke van Der Merwe 
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Aled De Malmanche, 18 Alexandre Flanquart, 19 Patrick Sio, 20 Clement Daguin, 21 Paul Williams, 22 Jeremy Sinzelle, 23 Sakaria Taulafo

Castres: 15 Geoffrey Palis, 14 Remy Grosso, 13 Afusipa Faha Ivalu Taumoepeau, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 David Smith, 10 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Anthony Jelonch, 7 Sitiveni Mafi, 6 Mathieu Babillot, 5 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 4 Christophe Samson, 3 Yohan Montes, 2 Marc Antoine Rallier, 1 Antoine Tichit 
Replacements: 16 Jody Jenneker, 17 Mihaïta Lazar, 18 Victor Moreaux, 19 Alex Tulou, 20 Antoine Dupont, 21 Julien Dumora, 22 Thomas Combezou, 23 Damien Tussac

Last year’s result: Stade won 22-9
Kick-off: 14:45 local (13:45 GMT)
Referee: Thomas Charabas


Montpellier v Pau
Altrad Stadium, Montpellier

It was almost panic stations heading into last week for Montpellier but they bounced back in impressive style with victory in Bordeaux.

This weekend they host a Pau side who also got off the mark last weekend, beating a Bayonne team with 14 men for much of the game.

Simon Mannix’s team are taking time to gel, but in Colin Slade they have a standout fly-half, and the All Black World Cup winner has impressed so far this campaign.

Against a Montpellier team still finding their feet, he will be under pressure to create holes in what looks a very solid defence if Pau are to repeat last season’s shock win in the Hérault.

The teams:

Montpellier: 15 Benjamin Fall, 14 Marvin O Connor, 13 Vincent Martin, 12 Alexandre Dumoulin, 11 Ratu Nemani Driu Nasiganiyavi, 10 François Steyn, 9 Benoit Paillaugue, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Kelian Galletier, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5 Konstantine Mikautadze, 4 Robins Tchale Watchou, 3 Davit Kubriashvili, 2 Bismark du Plessis, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili
Replacements: 16 Charles Geli, 17 Gregory Fichten, 18 Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 19 Antoine Battut, 20 Nic White, 21 Ben Botica, 22 Joffrey Michel, 23 Jannie du Plessis

Pau: 15 Charlie Malie, 14 Bastien Pourailly, 13 Tom Taylor, 12 Watisoni Votu, 11 Mosese Ratuvou, 10 Brandon Fajardo, 9 Julien Tomas, 8 Steffon Armitage, 7 Sean Dougall, 6 Pierrick Gunther, 5 Daniel Mark Ramsay, 4 Fabrice Metz, 3 Malik Hamadache, 2 Quentin Lespiaucq, 1 Jeremy Hurou 
Replacements: 16 Mehdi Boundjema, 17 Jamie Mackintosh, 18 Masalosalo Tutaia, 19 Paddy Butler, 20 Thibault Daubagna, 21 Louis Dupichot, 22 Jale Kaikadavu Vatubua, 23 Christopher Charles King

Last year’s result: Pau won 19-16
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Pierre Brousset


La Rochelle v Lyon
Stade Marcel Deflandre, La Rochelle

The joint leaders after three games, not many would have picked La Rochelle to earn that title when they found themselves in a big hole in their opener against Clermont.

Patrice Collazo’s side battled back for a draw in that game, before back-to-back away wins in Grenoble and Castres which reinforced their position as potential play-off dark horses.

Victor Vito got his first taste of the Top 14 last weekend and will be a valuable addition to the side, who seem to be able to produce magnificent moves from deep with great support play.

Lyon got off the mark last weekend with a convincing win over Grenoble, and will feel relatively comfortable with their start to life back in the Top 14.

A win on the road to La Rochelle would be a big ask, but if they manage it, they will fancy their chances at survival after two failed efforts.

The teams:

La Rochelle: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Steeve Barry, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Pierre Aguillon, 11 Gabriel Lacroix, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Enrico Januarie, 8 Kevin Gourdon, 7 Victor Vito, 6 Romana Graham, 5 Jone Qovu Nailiko, 4 Jason Eaton, 3 Lekso Kaulashvili, 2 Hikairo Forbes, 1 Mike Corbel 
Replacements: 16 Maxime Gau, 17 Vincent Pelo, 18 Leandro Cedaro, 19 Romain Sazy, 20 Afaesetiti Amosa, 21 Jules Le Bail, 22 Vincent Rattez, 23 Uini Atonio

Lyon: 15 Jerome Porical, 14 Henry Clunies-Ross, 13 Hemani Paea, 12 Thibaut Regard, 11 Franck Romanet, 10 Jacques Louis Potgieter, 9 Baptiste Amédée Couilloud, 8 Curtis Browning, 7 Deon Fourie, 6 Julien Bonnaire, 5 Thibaut Privat, 4 Simon Christian Njewel, 3 David Attoub, 2 Ti'i Paulo, 1 Stephane Clement 
Replacements: 16 Cameron Mapusua, 17 Albertus Buckle, 18 Joshua Bekhuis, 19 Taiasina Tuifua, 20 Frederic Michalak, 21 Naipolioni Vonowale Nalaga, 22 Michael Harris, 23 Francisco Gomez Kodela

Previous result: La Rochelle won 29-10 in 2014 in Pro D2
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Maxime Chalon


Bordeaux-Bègles v Bayonne
Stade Chaban Delmas, Bordeaux

The Vincent Etcheto Bowl takes place in Bordeaux as the hosts’ former attack coach comes to town with new side Bayonne.

Reputed for his entertaining, expansive play, Etcheto surprisingly parted ways with Bordeaux in the off-season of 2015, and after leading Bayonne to promotion, gets to take on his former club.

Bordeaux were good in spells last year, but occasionally lacked the verve of their best moments with Etcheto.

Bayonne, meanwhile, survived until half-time with 14 men against Pau, but in the end Jérôme Schuster’s early red card was too much to overcome.

Given their battle for survival, even a point on the road at Bordeaux would represent a good return, but Etcheto will be after more.

The teams:

Bordeaux-Bègles: 15 Jean Marcellin Buttin, 14 Adam Ashley Cooper, 13 Romain Lonca,s 12 Julien Rey, 11 Blair Connor, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Loann Goujon, 7 Hugh Chalmers, 6 Luke Braid, 5 Jandre Marais, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 2 Clement Maynadier, 1 Jefferson Poirot 
Replacements: 16 Wayne Avei, 17 Sebastien Taofifenua, 18 Cyril Cazeaux, 19 Marco Tauleigne, 20 Yann Lesgourgues, 21 Lionel Beauxis, 22 Metuisela Talebulamaijaina, 23 Marc Clerc

Bayonne: 15 Martin Bustos Moyano, 14 Romain Martial, 13 Felix Le Bourhis, 12 Gabiriele Lovobalavu, 11 Julien Jane, 10 Willem Du Plessis, 9 Emmanuel Saubusse, 8 Pieter Jan van Lill, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Jean Monribot, 5 Pelu Ian Taele, 4 Tom Donnelly, 3 Richard Choirat, 2 Manu Leiataua, 1 Lorenzo Cittadini 
Replacements: 16 Gregory Arganese, 17 Adrien Bordenave, 18 Adam Jaulhac, 19 Baptiste Chouzenoux, 20 Guillaume Rouet, 21 Thibault Lacroix, 22 Raphael Lagarde, 23 Benedict Broster

Previous result: Bordeaux won 38-20 in 2015
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Adrien Descottes


Clermont v Racing 92
Stade Marcel Michelin, Clermont-Ferrand

It’s been barely two months and Clermont get the chance to earn some revenge of champions Racing 92 for beating them in an epic Top 14 semi-final last season.

That day it was Juan Imhoff’s late score which carried Racing to victory, and given how sharp he looked against Toulouse, he will be worth keeping an eye out at the Marcel Michelin.

Clermont come into the game with two draws and a win from their three matches to date, but as they prepare for a first home game of the season, they are in arguably the best position of any title contender.

As ever their top-end depth is what sets them apart, and after a strong start to the season, it’s this week emerged that Aurélien Rougerie might just stay on one more year after this one.

Will he eventually retire with more than one Top 14 title to his name?

The teams:

Clermont: 15 Scott Spedding, 14 Adrien Plante, 13 Remi Lamerat, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Seru Noa Nakaitaci, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Julien Bardy, 6 Damien Chouly, 5 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 4 Arthur Iturria, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 2 John Ulugia, 1 Raphael Chaume 
Replacements: 16 Benjamin Kayser, 17 Etienne Falgoux, 18 Sitaleki Timani, 19 Camille Gerondeau, 20 Ludovic Radosavljevic, 21 Patricio Fernandez, 22 Aurelien Rougerie, 23 Clement Ric

Racing 92: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Sean Jack Robinson, 13 Anthony Tuitavake, 12 Casey Laulala, 11 Albert James Vulivuli, 10 Benjamin Dambielle, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Matemini Masoe, 7 Olivier Missoup, 6 Yannick Nyanga Kabasele, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Bernard Le Roux, 3 Benjamin Tameifuna, 2 Camille Chat, 1 Viliamu Afatia 
Replacements: 16 Virgile Lacombe, 17 Khatchik Vartanov, 18 Francois van der Merwe, 19 Thibault Dubarry, 20 James Hart, 21 Remi Tales, 22 Charles Reynaert, 23 Luc Ducalcon

Last year’s result: Racing 92 won 20-16
Kick-off: 20:45 local (19:45 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite


Grenoble v Brive
Stade des Alpes, Grenoble

Few would have picked Brive for top spot after three rounds of matches, particularly with two games on the road in their first three games.

But that’s where they stand, still unbeaten and fresh from victory away at Mayol over Toulon.

Unsurprisingly Gaëtan Germain was the key to that success with his metronomic goal-kicking, and he is certainly keeping himself in contention for a France spot, even if he doesn’t fulfil the full-back mould Guy Novès appears to be looking for.

Grenoble, meanwhile, have had a disastrous start to the season and sit rooted to the foot of the table.

That leaves them in must-win territory already, and while Gio Aplon is in exceptional form at the moment, the rest of the team has work to do to match him.

Last year’s result: Grenoble won 26-22
Kick-off: 12:30 local (11:30 GMT)
Referee: Sébastien Minery


Toulouse v Toulon
Stade Ernest Wallon, Toulouse

The battle of Les Rouge et Noir has plenty of edge to it at the best of times but this week there will be added spice with Toulon on the verge of crisis.

According to Mourad Boudjellal, they are currently in a relegation dogfight after losing their home opener to Brive, so expect a fired-up team to come out against Toulouse.

Ugo Mola’s men could have got more out of their trip to Racing last week, despite resting a couple of key individuals, but this should be a huge test for them.

Effective, while not entirely convincing, they will have to step it up a notch, and with the return of Josua Tuisova, Toulon bring back arguably the most dangerous weapon in the league.

One man who won’t be involved is Vincent Clerc, against his former club, after a tough debut last time out against Brive.

Last year’s result: Toulouse won 31-8
Kick-off: 16:15 local (15:15 GMT)
Referee: Jérôme Garcès

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