Top 14 Preview: Round 9

Date published: October 28 2016

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After two weeks of European action the Top 14 is back on the schedule, with a few crucial encounters and a derby to finish the weekend.

Opening up on Saturday is a Toulouse team who have failed to win their last three and travel to a refreshed Pau.

Stade Français then entertain Lyon while Toulon look to push up the table at home to Grenoble.

Arguably the game of the weekend sees Montpellier welcome high-flying La Rochelle before a must-win clash for both teams when Bayonne host Racing 92.

On Sunday Bordeaux-Bègles are the visitors to Castres, hoping to make a better fist of it than Northampton managed, before we finish in Brive with leaders Clermont looking to stretch their lead at the top.

Fixtures

Saturday

Pau v Toulouse
Stade Français v Lyon
Montpellier v La Rochelle
Toulon v Grenoble
Bayonne v Racing 92

Sunday

Castres v Bordeaux-Bègles
Brive v Clermont


Pau v Toulouse
Stade du Hameau, Pau

It was a case of what might have been for Toulouse in Europe, going down narrowly in Connacht having been ten points up at the break, before letting in a late try to concede a draw to Wasps.

With Zebre in their pool, all hope of reaching the last eight is not lost, but for now the Top 14 will have to take precedence.

They travel to Pau, who have enjoyed two weeks off, playing much-weakened teams in the Challenge Cup.

The hope is the likes of Conrad Smith, Colin Slade and Steffon Armitage will return refreshed, and can help Pau avoid a third home defeat of the season.

After Toulon and Bordeaux-Bègles both came away victorious from the Stade du Hameau, Toulouse will look to do the same for a first away win of the season.

The teams:

Pau: 15 Tom Taylor, 14 Louis Dupichot, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Jale Vatubua, 11 Watisoni Votu, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Julien Tomas, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Paddy Butler, 5 Fabrice Metz, 4 Daniel Ramsay, 3 Malik Hamadache, 2 Mehdi Boundjema, 1 Geoffrey Moise
Replacements: 16 Lucas Rey, 17 Jamie Mackintosh, 18 Masalosalo Tutaia, 19 Giovanni Kufner, 20 Pierrick Gunther, 21 Thibault Daubagna, 22 Charly Malié, 23 Joel Sclavi

Toulouse: 15 Maxime Médard, 14 Paul Perez, 13 Florian Fritz, 12 Gaël Fickou, 11 Alexis Palisson, 10 Jean-Marc Doussain, 9 Samuel Marques, 8 Carl Axtens, 7 Tala Gray, 6 Thierry Dusautoir, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Grégory Lamboley, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Julien Marchand, 1 Vasil Kakovin
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Cyril Baille, 18 Joe Tekori, 19 François Cros, 20 Sébastien Bézy, 21 Luke McAlister, 22 Semi Kunatani, 23 Maks van Dyk

Last year’s result: Pau won 9-6
Kick-off: 14:45 local (13:45 GMT)
Referee: Thomas Charabas


Stade Français v Lyon
Stade Jean Bouin, Paris

Will Genia makes his return for Stade Français after a promising Rugby Championship, and the team from the capital will be hoping he can maintain that form.

It’s hard to read too much into Challenge Cup results, but Stade saw a relatively strong side well-beaten at Harlequins so they will expect much better against Lyon.

The Genia-Morné Steyn partnership could be crucial, with France call-up Jules Plisson relegated to the bench, while Jono Ross takes on the captaincy in the absence of Sergio Parisse.

Lyon are actually ahead of their opponents in the table as it stands and could ease away from a relegation battle with victory on the road. They have had to cope with speculation over the future of Delon Armitage this week, the former England full-back linked to a move away with Jean-Marcellin Buttin mooted as a potential replacement – a rumour the club has strenuously denied.

The teams:

Stade Français: 15 Hugo Bonneval, 14 Waisea, 13 Paul Williams, 12 Théo Millet, 11 Djibril Camara, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jono Ross, 7 Raphaël Lakafia, 6 Willem Alberts, 5 Paul Gabrillagues, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Laurent Sempéré, 1 Heinke van der Merwe
Replacements: 16 Rémi Bonfils, 17 Emmanuel Felsina, 18 Alexandre Flanquart, 19 Sylvain Nicolas, 20 Arthur Coville, 21 Jules Plisson, 22 Jonathan Danty, 23 Zak Taulafo

Lyon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Toby Arnold, 13 Théo Belan, 12 Rudi Wulf, 11 Henry Clunies-Ross, 10 Mike Harris, 9 Baptiste Couilloud, 8 Carl Fearns, 7 Julien Bonnaire, 6 Julien Puricelli, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Taiasina Tuifua, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Mickaël Ivaldi, 1 Albertus Buckle
Replacements: 16 Ti’i Paulo, 17 Alexandre Menini, 18 Félix Lambey, 19 Deon Fourie, 20 Nicolas Durand, 21 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22 Thibaut Regard, 23 David Attoub

Previous result: Stade won 23-20 in 2014
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Cédric Marchat


Montpellier v La Rochelle
Altrad Stadium, Montpellier

There will be a contrast of styles at the Altrad Stadium where the all-powerful Montpellier host free-flowing La Rochelle.

Jake White’s tactics worked against Leinster, thanks in no small part to Nemani Nadolo, the Fijian is virtually unstoppable one on one.

There is an embarrassment of riches out wide for White, with Timoci Nagusa now back from his extended summer break, while Joe Tomane gets his chance at inside centre.

Still we’re more likely to see the La Rochelle wingers in action given how they play, and having dropped a couple of points at home to Toulon last time out, Patrice Collazo’s team will have a point to prove.

Ricky Januarie is back at scrum-half, and his partnership with Brock James will not lack for experience. Elsewhere the centre pairing of Levani Botia and Zack Holmes gives the visitors a fine combination of power and playmaking.

The teams:

Montpellier: 15 Joffrey Michel, 14 Marvin O’Connor, 13 Vincent Martin, 12 Joe Tomane, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 François Steyn, 9 Nic White, 8 Akapusi Qera, 7 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 6 Antoine Battut, 5 Jacques du Plessis, 4 Konstantin Mikautadze, 3 Davit Kubriashvili, 2 Shalva Mamukashvili, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili
Replacements: 16 Romain Ruffenach, 17 Grégory Fichten, 18 Robins Tchale-Watchou, 19 Kélian Galletier, 20 Tomas O’Leary, 21 Ben Botica, 22 Jesse Mogg, 23 Gagi Bazadze

La Rochelle: 15 Charles Bouldoire, 14 Kini Murimurivalu, 13 Zack Holmes, 12 Levani Botia, 11 Steeve Barry, 10 Brock James, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Victori Vito, 7 Kevin Gourdon, 6 Jason Eaton, 5 Jone Qovu, 4 Romana Graham, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Hika Forbes, 1 Mike Corbel
Replacements: 16 Jérémie Maurouard, 17 Vincent Pelo, 18 Leandro Cedaro, 19 Afa Amosa, 20 Arthur Retière, 21 Elliot Roudil, 22 Vincent Rattez, 23 Mohamed Boughanmi

Last year’s result: Montpellier won 25-20
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Maxime Chalon


Toulon v Grenoble
Stade Félix Mayol, Toulon

Another week, another regime change at Toulon, with the sword of Damocles that’s been hanging over Diego Domínguez finally dropping.

Mike Ford is now the man in charge, and the former Bath and England coach could have had worse games to ease his way in.

Grenoble romped past Bayonne before the European break to get back in touch with the bottom of the table, but face a much tougher task in Toulon.

Of course they have won at Mayol before, Alipate Ratini’s famous interception still a sore point for many in the French Riviera.

Ford has gone with the best possible side though, including new French call-up Charles Ollivon who has shone at blindside this season.

The teams:

Toulon: 15 James O’Connor, 14 Matt Carraro, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Axel Muller, 10 François Trinh-Duc, 9 Eric Escande, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Juán Martín Fernández Lobbe, 6 Charles Ollivon, 5 Samu Manoa, 4 Mamuka Gorgodze, 3 Levan Chilachava, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Xavier Chiocci
Replacements: 16 Anthony Etrillard, 17 Laurent Delboulbès, 18 Jocelino Suta, 19 Aidon Davis, 20 Maxime Mermoz, 21 Pierre Bernard, 22 Sébastien Tillous-Borde, 23 Marcel van der Merwe

Grenoble: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Eddy Saiwalau, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Nigel Hunt, 11 Xavier Mignot, 10 Gilles Bosch, 9 David Mélé, 8 Steven Setephano, 7 Fabien Alexandre, 6 Peter Kimlin, 5 Aly Muldowney, 4 Ben Hand, 3 Roussouw de Klerk, 2 Laurent Bouchet, 1 Sona Taumalolo
Replacements: 16 Loick Jammes, 17 Denis Coulson, 18 Hendrik Roodt, 19 Rory Grice, 20 Dylan Hayes, 21 Lilian Saseras, 22 Jonathan Wisniewski, 23 Dayna Edwards

Last year’s result: Toulon won 38-8
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Pierre Brousset


Bayonne v Racing 92
Stade Jean Dauger, Bayonne

According to Vincent Etcheto Bayonne must win two of their next four games or they are down, and given their position in the table it’s hard to disagree.

A home encounter with the champions is the first chance to get one of those wins, but with Racing also struggling, it will be far from easy.

The Franciliens have still not picked up a point on their travels this season, and as a result find themselves outside the play-off places. That could change very quickly, and they have brought out the big guns for this one to try to stop that trend.

Bayonne, meanwhile, sit bottom of the table, and have not won since the first game of the season. They have plenty of Top 14 experience in their side, but matched up against Racing, a home win looks unlikely.

The teams:

Bayonne: 15 Romain Martial, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Félix le Bourhis, 12 Gabiriele Lovobalavu, 11 Ryan Tongia, 10 Raphaël Lagarde, 9 Guillaume Rouet, 8 PJ van Lill, 7 Bastien Chouzenoux, 6 Jean Monribot, 5 Pelu Taele, 4 Tom Donnelly, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Manu Leiataua, 1 Aretz Iguiniz
Replacements: 16 Grégory Arganèse, 17 Davit Khinchagashvili, 18 Pablo Huete, 19 Johnnie Beattie, 20 Emmanuel Saubusse, 21 Martin Laveau, 22 Willie du Plessis, 23 Richard Choirat

Racing 92: 15 Johannes Goosen, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Henry Chavancy, 12 Anthony Tuitavake, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Thibault Dubarry, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 François van der Merwe, 4 Leone Nakarawa, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Virgile Lacombe, 1 Eddy Ben Arous
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Viliamu Afatia, 18 Manuel Carizza, 19 Yannick Nyanga, 20 James Hart, 21 Albert Vulivuli, 22 Brice Dulin, 23 Luc Ducalcon

Previous result: Racing won 12-6 in 2015
Kick-off: 20:45 local (19:45 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite


Castres v Bordeaux-Bègles
Stade Pierre Antoine, Castres

Castres produced their best performance in Europe for many a season last weekend when they hammered Northampton 41-7, in fact on another day it could have been even more.

It was an important win on the back of three straight defeats, albeit two away to Top 14 heavyweights in Clermont and Montpellier, followed by a loss to Leinster in Dublin.

Back at home they have been much better, and they can get back into the play-off picture with victory over Bordeaux-Bègles.

Raphaël Ibanez’s side have been hot and cold this season, but impressed in Europe, finishing strongly to see off Ulster before taking a four-try bonus point in defeat at Clermont despite a weakened side.

This week saw confirmation that their skipper, Louis-Benoît Madaule, will be off to Toulouse next season so he will want to go out on a good note. Currently fifth, a win would put Bordeaux in a great spot in the race for the top six.

The teams: tbc

Last year’s result: Castres won 19-9
Kick-off: 12:30 local (11:30 GMT)
Referee: Alexandre Ruiz


Brive v Clermont
Stade Amédée Domenech, Brive

The derby of the Massif Central sees the league leaders travel to Brive looking for a third straight win at Amédée Domenech.

There was some controversy this week at the omission for a number of Clermont players in Guy Novès’ squad for a training camp ahead of the November Tests.

The French boss has his hands tied with the new LNR/FFR agreement, but the likes of Camille Lopez, Morgan Parra and Noa Nakaitaci will be looking to make a point.

Brive have a couple of players of their own who could be a little peeved at missing out, not least loosehead Lucas Pointud, who has been a standout in their dominant scrum this season.

The set-piece has been a problem area for Clermont in recent weeks, so expect Brive to try to take full advantage.

The teams: tbc

Last year’s result: Clermont won 26-21
Kick-off: 16:15 local (15:15 GMT)
Referee: Pascal Gauzère

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