Top 14 Preview: Round 6

Date published: September 24 2016

Round Six of Top 14 action features one of the most famous games in the French rugby calendar, as well as arguably the biggest current rivalry on Sunday.

Kicking it all off will be the champions Racing 92 away to Castres from whom they took their coaches and a host of players.

Then Bordeaux-Bègles will be looking to bounce back from a slow start at home to Lyon while struggling Grenoble entertain Pau.

High-flying La Rochelle welcome Bayonne to Marcel Deflandre and on Saturday evening it’s the Classico between Toulouse and Stade Français.

Then on Sunday an ominous-looking Montpellier side host Brive before Mayol is the venue for the huge clash between leaders Clermont and Toulon.



Castres v Racing 92
Bordeaux-Bègles v Lyon
Grenoble v Pau
La Rochelle v Bayonne
Toulouse v Stade Français


Montpellier v Brive
Toulon v Clermont

Castres v Racing 92
Stade Pierre Antoine, Castres

The journey from the Tarn to the Parisian suburbs is now a well-travelled one and after last year’s Bouclier de Brennus, it seems to have served Racing well.

The two Laurents, Labit and Travers, have won Top 14 titles with both these clubs, and Racing can make this a strong start to the season with a win on the road at Pierre Antoine.

Last week they were clinical against Toulon, and arguably could have won more convincingly than they did.

Castres, meanwhile, took care of business at home to a struggling Grenoble side but this will be their first game against a play-off team from last season.

With Benjamin Urdapilleta, Christophe Urios’ teams are always strong but Racing should be their biggest test yet.        

The teams:

Castres: 15 Geoffrey Palis, 14 Julien Caminati, 13 Thomas Combezou, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 David Smith, 10 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Alex Tulou, 7 Alexandre Bias, 6 Mathieu Babillot, 5 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 4 Loïc Jacquet, 3 Damien Tussac, 2 Jody Jenneker, 1 Mihaita Lazar
Replacements: 16 Marc-Antoine Rallier, 17 Antoine Tichit, 18 Victor Moreaux, 19 Steve Mafi, 20 Antoine Dupont, 21 Afusipa Taumoepeau, 22 Julien Dumora, 23 Daniel Kotze

Racing 92: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Juan Imhoff, 13 Anthony Tuitavake, 12 Casey Laulala, 11 Marc Andreu, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Antonie Claassen, 7 Yannick Nyanga, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Francois van der Merwe, 4 Leone Nakarawa, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Eddy Ben Arous
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Viliamu Afatia, 18 Bernard Le Roux, 19 Chris Masoe, 20 James Hart, 21 Rémi Talès, 22 Albert Vulivuli, 23 Luc Ducalcon

Last year’s result: Castres won 34-8
Kick-off: 14:45 local (13:45 GMT)
Referee: Jérôme Garcès

Bordeaux-Bègles v Lyon
Stade Chaban Delmas, Bordeaux

To be 12th after five rounds of matches certainly didn’t fit into Bordeaux’s plans this season, but that’s where they find themselves before taking on Lyon.

They couldn’t make it three unbeaten at the Marcel Michelin last weekend as Clermont put on a clinic, but they will fancy their chances at home to Lyon.

However Pierre Mignoni’s side picked up a prestigious win against Toulouse last week, and after a great defensive display in that one, they will be looking for more of the same against Bordeaux.

Raphaël Ibanez’s side haven’t been entirely convincing so far this year, even if they have already beaten the champions, but if they want to be considered serious play-off contenders, this is a must-win game.

The teams:

Bordeaux-Bègles: 15 Metuisela Talebula, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Romain Lonca, 12 Julien Rey, 11 Blair Connor, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Loann Goujon, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Louis-Benoît Madaule, 5 Jan Andre Marais, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 2 Ole Avei, 1 Jefferson Poirot
Replacements: 16 Beñat Auzqui, 17 Sébastien Taofifenua, 18 Cyril Cazeaux, 19 Hugh Chalmers, 20 Yann Lesgourgues, 21 Lionel Beauxis, 22 Josaia Vakacegu, 23 Marc Clerc

Lyon: 15 Romain Loursac, 14 Toby Arnold, 13 Theo Belan, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Napolioni Nalaga, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Baptiste Couilloud, 8 Curtis Browning, 7 Deon Fourie, 6 Julien Bonnaire, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Felix Lambey, 3 David Attoub, 2 Ti'I Paulo, 1 Alexandre Menini
Replacements: 16 Cameron Mapusua, 17 Albertus Buckle, 18 Christian Njewel, 19 Virgile Bruni, 20 Agustin Figuerola, 21 Henry Clunies-Ross, 22 Thibault Regard, 23 Francisco Gomez Kodela

Previous result: Bordeaux won 37-29 in 2014
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Sébastien Minery

Grenoble v Pau
Stade des Alpes, Grenoble

Grenoble looked an absolute mess last week as Castres put them to the sword, and if they are to stay up, it will surely require a great home record.

They have shown they can do it, most notably when they beat Brive despite having a man fewer for the whole of the second half.

But as it stands they are conceding more than 35 points a game, and if that continues, they will be cut adrift pretty quickly.

Pau were comfortable last week against Stade Français, defending well and taking their chances, but they didn’t come close to a losing bonus point on either of their two previous away games this season.

Without Conrad Smith, who was crucial last weekend, they will need to improve that away form quickly.

The teams:

Grenoble: 15 Fabien Gengenbacher, 14 Edward Sawailau, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Fabrice Estebanez, 11 Armand Batlle, 10 Jonathan Wisniewski, 9 David Mélé, 8 Dylan Hayes, 7 Fabien Alexandre, 6 Steven Setephano, 5 Aly Muldowney, 4 Peter Kimlin, 3 Rossouw de Klerk, 2 Laurent Bouchet, 1 Sona Taumalolo
Replacements: 16 Arnaud Heguy, 17 Denis Coulson, 18 Mathias Marie, 19 Mahamadou Diaby, 20 Lilian Saseras, 21 Gilles Bosch, 22 Maritino Nemani, 23 Ali Oz

Pau: 15 Charly Malie, 14 Louis Dupichot, 13 Jale Vatubua, 12 Tom Taylor, 11 Bastien Pourailly, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Julien Tomas, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Paddy Butler, 5 Julien Pierre, 4 Fabrice Metz, 3 Sylvain Charlet, 2 Mehdi Boundjema, 1 Geoffrey Moise
Replacements: 16 Quentin Lespiaucq, 17 Jamie Mackintosh, 18 Daniel Ramsay, 19 Ibrahim Diarra, 20 Thibault Daubagna, 21 Brandon Fajardo, 22 Sean Dougall, 23 Malik Hamadache

Last year’s result: Pau won 41-15
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Thomas Charabas

La Rochelle v Bayonne
Stade Marcel Deflandre, La Rochelle

La Rochelle are no longer unbeaten but despite a first loss of the season away at Brive, they look to be genuine play-off contenders.

And with their ability to feed off scraps to score lots of points, La Rochelle are right up with Clermont as the most dangerous team in the league with ball in hand at the moment.

Their scrum proved their undoing against Brive, as they let slip a 22-10 half-time lead, but that should be less of a problem against Bayonne.

The Basques have struggled in recent weeks, and a home loss to Montpellier last time out left them scrapping in the bottom two.

After their great start against Toulon and then Castres, they need to get back on track. Unfortunately a trip to Marcel Deflandre these days looks a very tough prospect.

The teams:

La Rochelle: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Vincent Rattez, 13 Steeve Barry, 12 Pierre Aguillon, 11 Gabriel Lacroix, 10 Brock James, 9 Alexis Bales, 8 Jone Qovu, 7 Kévin Gourdon, 6 Romain Sazy, 5 Damien Lagrange, 4 Jason Eaton, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Hikairo Forbes, 1 Mike Corbel
Replacements: 16 Jérémie Maurouard, 17 Vincent Pelo, 18 Romana Graham, 19 Zeno Kieft, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Jules Lebail, 22 Arthur Retiere, 23 Lekso Kaulashvili

Bayonne: 15 Julien Tisseron, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Félix le Bourhis, 12 Thibault Lacroix, 11 Bastien Fuster, 10 Raphael Lagarde, 9 Guillaume Rouet, 8 John Beattie, 7 Jean-Jo Marmouyet, 6 Tanerau Latimer, 5 Pelu Taele, 4 Pierre Gayraud, 3 Richard Choirat, 2 Simon Labouyrie, 1 Davit Khinchagishvili
Replacements: 16 Manu Leiataua, 17 Adrien Bordenave, 18 Pablo Huete, 19 PJ Van Lill, 20 Manu Saubusse, 21 Martin Laveau, 22 Lucas Meret, 23 Lorenzo Cittadini

Previous result: The teams drew 19-19 in 2014
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Pierre Brousset

Toulouse v Stade Français
Stade Ernest Wallon, Toulouse

It was the biggest game in the French rugby calendar in the last 90s and the 2000s, but this week it’s just a must-win game for Toulouse.

Three successive losses have left Ugo Mola’s men at the wrong end of the table, and while they aren’t that many points behind the play-offs, they look well off the pace.

Luckily for them, they welcome a Paris team who have struggled mightily in Toulouse in recent years, with their last win coming back in 2006.

They are also undermanned with Jules Plisson suspended and a number of injuries, but Toulouse are lacking an attacking spark.

Short of ideas against Lyon last week, they really look to be missing Louis Picamoles, and with news that Yacouba Camara is expected to join Montpellier next season, there must be real concern at France’s most successful club.

Still, they were in a mess two years ago before a morale-boosting win over Stade steadied the ship, they’ll be after more of the same on Saturday night.

The teams:

Toulouse: 15 Maxime Médard, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Gaël Fickou, 12 Toby Flood, 11 Alexis Palisson, 10 Jean Marc Doussain, 9 Sébastien Bezy, 8 Gillian Galan, 7 Piula Faasalele, 6 Thierry Dusautoir, 5 Richie Gray, 4 Yoann Maestri, 3 Dorian Aldegheri, 2 Julien Marchand, 1 Cyril Baille
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Joe Tekori, 19 Gregory Lamboley, 20 Edwin Maka, 21 Samuel Marques, 22 Florian Fritz, 23 Maks van Dyk

Stade Français: 15 Jérémy Sinzelle, 14 Julien Arias, 13 Theo Millet, 12 Paul Williams, 11 Karim Qadiri, 10 Meyer Bosman, 9 Julien Dupuy, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Raphaël Lakafia, 6 Jono Ross, 5 Pascal Papé, 4 Paul Gabrillagues, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Rémy Bonfils, 1 Heinke Van der Merwe
Replacements: 16 Laurent Sempere, 17 Zurabi Zhvania, 18 Mathieu de Giovanni, 19 Antoine Burban, 20 Gerhard Mostert, 21 Clement Daguin, 22 Sekou Macalou, 23 Sakaria Taulafo

Last year’s result: Toulouse won 36-3
Kick-off: 20:45 local (19:45 GMT)
Referee: Alexandre Ruiz

Montpellier v Brive
Altrad Stadium, Montpellier

Jake White was under a little bit of pressure when his Montpellier team lost their first two games of the season, but three straight wins since has them right back in the play-off picture.

Even without the injured Bismark Du Plessis, Montpellier look like an unstoppable machine, and cruised past Bayonne last week.

They take on a Brive team who have surprised this year, and knocked off leaders La Rochelle last week.

Their scrum was crucial as ever, and they will need a platform to spring a surprise here. If their set-piece does fire, Gaëtan Germain remains as reliable as ever with the boot.

It might not be the most open of games, but the battle up front should be huge.

Last year’s result: Montpellier won 19-3
Kick-off: 12:30 local (11:30 GMT)
Referee: Laurent Cardona

Toulon v Clermont
Stade Félix Mayol, Toulon

You have to go back five years for the last time Clermont played Toulon in Mayol, but after trips to Marseille and Nice in recent seasons, they will return to the famous stadium.

Top of the table, unbeaten and averaging nearly 35 points a game, Clermont have bounced back from last year’s disappointment in style.

And now they travel to a Toulon team that were thumped at Racing a week ago and still don’t seem to have hit their stride.

Last season Clermont hit back late to win away at Toulon, and on current form, you wouldn’t back against them doing it again.

They have a number of French internationals looking to prove a point to Guy Novès, none moreso than Noa Nakaitaci, and on this form, the France coach might have to venture outside his 30-man elite squad.

Currently eighth in the table, Toulon are missing some of their stars, particularly in the back row, but a win on home soil would propel them right back into the play-off picture.

Last year’s result: Clermont won 19-18
Kick-off: 16:15 local (15:15 GMT)
Referee: Pascal Gauzère