Top 14 Preview: Round Nine

Date published: October 4 2013

Two massive games headline this weekend's Top 14 fixtures as leaders Stade Français visit Toulouse in French rugby's Classico

Two massive games headline this weekend's Top 14 fixtures as Toulon host Clermont and leaders Stade Français visit Toulouse in French rugby's version of El Classico

Just 10 points separates leaders Stade Français from 13th-placed Bayonne, with bottom club Biarritz the sole adrift on just seven points.

Jérôme Garces will be the only French referee this weekend as foreign officials take charge of the other six game in preparartion for the European season, which kicks off next week.


Friday, October 4
Biarritz v Perpignan

Saturday, October 5
Toulon v Clermont
Bordeaux-Bègles v Bayonne
Brive v Castres
Montpellier v Oyonnax
Racing Métrov Grenoble
Toulouse v Stade Français


Montpellier Hérault Rugby v US Oyonnax
Stade Yves Du Manoir, Montpellier

The hosts sit fourth and have proved themselves a formidable hosts at Stade Yves Du Manoir already this season. Thumping victories over Clermont and Toulouse, and a draw with Toulon in the opening round have seen them go unbeaten at home in the league thus far.

A stand-out performer in recent weeks has been scrum-half Johann Pelissie, whose guile and skill in attack is combined with solid goal-kicking. This was most evident during the forty-point humbling of rivals Clermont just a fortnight ago.
Many have tipped Montpellier for a realistic push for silverware this season, and the visitors will have to be at their best to prevent another heavy home victory.

Newly-promoted Oyonnax have enjoyed some impressive early-season form, with four wins and four defeats in the Top14 thus far.

Heineken Cup Champions Toulon were the latest to fall to the new boys' giant-killing spree, with Oyonnax having overcome the likes of Clermont, Castres and Biarritz in the league's opening eight rounds.

Fly-half Benjamin Urdapilleta was in excellent form with the boot last week, with a personal points haul of seventeen, including the match-winning drop goal. His performance from the tee will be vital to ensure his side keep the scoreboard ticking over at such a tough venue.

Previous result: n/a
Prediction: Easy home win. Montpellier to win with a bonus point
Kick-off: 18:30 (16.30 GMT)
Referee: Claudio Blessano (Italy)

Racing Métro 92 v FC Grenoble
Stade Yves Du Manoir – Colombes (Paris)

Racing Metro sit sixth with five wins and three defeats to their name. The Parisian side are unbeaten at home, having recorded victories over the likes of Perpignan, Oyonnax and Brive thus far.

Playmaker and marquee signing Jonny Sexton has now found his feet in the league after a tough opening few weeks, and has made a telling impact on his side's fortunes in their recent fixtures.

Grenoble are three places and two points worse off than their opposition in the league table, and true to French form, have struggled to pick up points on the road – their only away victory coming at the expense of troubled Biarritz.

That said, they have recorded impressive results against Toulon and Stade Français at home, and do have the potential to cause Racing problems.

Openside flanker Roland Bernard scored in that famous victory over the Heineken Cup champions, and has been hitting great form in recent weeks, with typically abrasive and energetic play in the loose combining with good work at the breakdown.

South African scrum-half Ruan Snyman is set to make his debut for Racing. Nigel Hunt returns at inside centre for Grenoble with Olly Barkley starting at fly-half.

Results last season: Racing Metro 23-3 Grenoble; Grenoble 27-13 Racing Metro
Prediction: Home win. Racing by ten points
Kick-off: 18:30 (16.30 GMT)
Referee: David Wilkinson (Irland)

CA Brive-Corrèze v Castres Olympique
Stade Amédée-Domenech, Brive-la-Gaillarde

Brive lie tenth after three wins, four losses and a solitary draw. Their home form has been solid, and they are unbeaten at Stade Amédée-Domenech, including an impressive victory over Perpignan last month.

That said, they have struggled badly in their away fixtures, losing all bar a 12-12 draw with Grenoble, and suffering heavy defeats from Toulon and Montpellier.

The reigning champions have four wins and four defeats to their name, and currently sit three places above their hosts in the league in seventh position.

Castres are coming off the back of a good home win against Racing Metro, but have struggled on their travels recently; scoring just nine points apiece in their two most recent away Top 14 fixtures.

It's a trend they will need to buck in order to combat Brive's formidable home record

Previous result: Brive 13 – 15 Castres (2012)
Prediction: Brive have been solid at home. Brive by six points
Kick-off: 18:30 (16.30 GMT)
Referee: Andrew Mac Menemy (Scotland)

Union Bordeaux-Bègles v Aviron Bayonnais
Stade André Moga, Bègles

This is set to be an intriguing and important clash, with both sides separated at the wrong end of the league table by points difference alone.

Bordeaux-Belges have lost just once at homeso far, but are coming off the back of two tricky away fixtures at Racing Metro and Clermont respectively, both of which ended in defeat.

Despite that, they were able to rest a number of key figures for the trip to Clermont, whom they can welcome back for the visit of Bayonne.

The Basques, one place below their hosts but bouyed by victory over neoghbour Biarritz last week, have suffered on their travels thus far, and failed to register a single victory. Heavy losses to Toulouse and Clermont were followed by defeats at the hands of Brive and Toulon away from home.

Matthieu Belie is back the reckoning for a starting slot at scrum-half alongside Welshman Mike Phillips having recovered from a shoulder knock sustained against Oyonnax in the opening round.

Aretz Iguiniz passed a fitness test on Friday, while Dewald Senekal and Jean-Joseph Marmouyet miss out on selection.

Results last season: UBB 39-13 Bayonne; Bayonne 22-11 UBB
Prediction: Bayonne might struggle on the road. Bordeaux-Belges by five points
Kick-off: 18:30 (16.30 GMT)
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)

Stade Toulousain v Stade Français Paris
Stade Ernest Wallon, Toulouse

The late kick-off on Saturday pitches leader Stade Français away at fifth-placed Toulouse, whose start to the season has seen them lose four of the opening eight matches.

Stade have not won in the Ville Rose since 2007, but have been the