Top 14 Preview: Round Four

Date published: September 4 2013

Seven midweek matches take place in Round Four of the Top 14 season on Wednesday, with Toulouse hosting Racing Métro.

Seven midweek matches take place in Round Four of the Top 14 season on Wednesday, with Toulouse hosting Racing Métro.

Stade Français sit top of the standings after the first three rounds of the tournament, with Oyonnax currently sat bottom just one point behind Biarritz, Perpignan and Brive.


Wednesday, September 4: all kick-offs are scheduled for 19:00 (18:00 GMT) unless stated otherwise.

Castres v Stade Français (18:45, 17:45 GMT)
Bordeaux v Montpellier
Clermont v Bayonne
Oyonnax v Biarritz
Perpignan v Grenoble
Toulon v Brive
Toulouse v Racing Métro (21:05, 20:05 GMT)


Castres v Stade Français
Stade Pierre Antoine

A 38-3 thrashing of Biarritz put Stade Français up in many people's estimations, on their first appearance in the recently refurbished Stade Jean Bouin last Friday.

The win came after a late Jules Plisson drop-goal had secured victory over Perpignan the previous weekend, capping off a fine few days for Max Guazzini's team.

Pre-season predictions that Stade would do well to be in contention for the playoffs may now need adjusting.

In the absence of both Plisson and Morn̩ Steyn, who is away with the Springboks, former Sharks back Meyer Bosman will pull the strings at 10 Рwhilst Richard Kingi is on the right wing in a side captained by R̩mi Bonfils.

Castres were not so successful last weekend, beaten out by a single point against Bordeaux away from home.

The 2012-2013 champions have had a mixed to start to defending their title so far, and have kept star scrum-half Rory Kockott on the bench for Wednesday's game.

Their last home outing, a 34-6 bonus-point win over Grenoble, should give them hope.

Previous result: Castres won 44-13
Prediction: Home win. Castres by eight.
Kick-off: 18:45 (17:45 GMT)
Referee: S. Minery

Bordeaux v Montpellier
Stade André Moga

Bordeaux will host Montpellier on Wednesday evening fresh from that surprise success over Castres.

Pierre Bernard was the hero of the hour against his old side, kicking a 77th-minute winning drop goal to seal the 21-20 victory.

Bernard continues at fly-half against Montpellier, with the exciting Metuisela Talebula deployed at outside centre.

Blindside flanker Alexandre Bias will captain Montpellier for their trip to the south-west, fresh from a 33-24 win over Brive.

Their task was made simpler thanks to Brive's ill-discipline Рthe visitors conceded four yellow cards Рbut marked a welcome relief for Fabien Galthi̩'s side as they picked up their first win of the season and moved off the bottom of the table.

Predicted to make the playoffs in pre-season, a second successive win will put Montpellier's season back on track.

Previous result: Montpellier won 15-13.
Prediction: Away win. Montpellier by five.
Kick-off: 19:00 (18:00 GMT)
Referee: C. Lafon

Clermont v Bayonne
Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin

Boosted by a 38-19 victory over Toulouse at home last weekend, Clermont's record at the Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin now sits at an impressive 61 games unbeaten.

Four tries from Julien Bardy, Thomas Domingo, Julien Bonnaire and Wesley Fofana wrapped up a handy bonus-point win that will give Clermont plenty of confidence ahead of Bayonne's visit.

Vern Cotter has made 10 changes to the side that defeated Toulouse, with Julien Pierre acting as captain as Regan King partners Fofana in midfield.

Bayonne arrive in Montferrand on the back of a 31-20 win over Perpignan – a much-needed response to their disappointing performance against Toulouse the week before.

Eight players will make their first appearances of the season for Bayonne, including centre Sam Gerber, with Guillaume Bernad captaining the team.

Previous result: Clermont won 48-3.
Prediction: Home win Clermont by 20.
Kick-off: 19:00 (18:00 GMT)
Referee: C. Marchat

Oyonnax v Biarritz
Stade Charles Mathon

After their abject showing against Stade Français last Friday, Biarritz's run doesn't get any simpler by visiting Oyonnax.

Last season's Pro D2 champions stunned Clermont in Round Two at home and have the tenacity to do the same once more.

Comfortably beaten 22-9 by Racing Métro on the weekend, Oyonnax will be targeting their home games as the best method to stay up and avoid relegation. The key man will be fly-half Benjamin Urdapilleta, who starts.

Biarritz's performance against Stade was unacceptable. Looking for redemption, they have rolled out a strong side for Wednesday's match.

Joe Pietersen and Zee Ngwenya take their spots on the wings, with Dimitri Yachvili and Damien Traille also operating in the backline. The true battle however will be upfront.

Oyonnax have the ability to pull this off, but Biarritz's side is strong. Close.

Previous result:
Prediction: Away win. Biarritz by three.
Kick-off: 19:00 (18:00 GMT)
Referee: P. Pechambert

Perpignan v Grenoble
Stade Aime Giral

How about Grenoble? Few gave them a hope against Toulon last weekend but after Jonny Wilkinson missed a late conversion to tie the scores, Grenoble sealed a 28-26 win over the European champions.

Such a surprising victory can work in two ways – Grenoble will either be drained by it or spurred on to greater things.

Valentin Courrent and Julien Caminati, the main points-scorers from the win, are both rested with former England centre Olly Barkley in line to take over the kicking duties.

Perpignan will again be captained by James Hook from full-back, a try-scorer in last weekend's loss to Bayonne.

USAP's early season form has been frustrating but they are a better side at home, despite being pipped last time out by Stade Français.

Previous result: Perpignan won 20-18
Prediction: Home win. Perpignan by five.
Kick-off: 19:00 (18:00 GMT)
Referee: P. Gauzère

Toulon v Brive
Stade Mayol

Expect a Toulon backlash; especially at home.

When Toulon luckily escaped with a 22-22 draw against Montpellier, they responded by hammering Racing Métro. A similar outcome on Wednesday having lost to Grenoble, of all teams, seems likely.

Jonny Wilkinson is named on the bench as Matt Giteau pulls the strings at 10, with Chris Masoe leading the team in Wilkinson's absence. Josua Tuisova is a surprise starter on the right wing.

Brive's four yellow cards saw their chances of victory go up in smoke away against Montpellier, but only losing by nine points considering they played much of the match with 14 men is actually impressive.

Key points source Laurent Ferreres is rested, replaced by Alfi Mafi at 15, with Brive set to field a weaker side.

Previous result: