Top 14 Preview: Round Seven

Date published: September 20 2013

Toulouse host Top 14 champions Castres in Saturday's headline clash in France while Bayonne are in for a hiding away to Toulon.

Toulouse host Top 14 champions Castres in Saturday's headline clash in France while Bayonne are in for a hiding away to Toulon.

Racing-Métro are looking to build some momentum at home against Bordeaux-Begles and rock-bottom Biarritz entertain Grenoble.

Promoted Brive and Oyonnax host ambitious Perpignan and Stade Français respectively.


Friday, September 20
Montpellier v Clermont

Saturday, September 21All kick-offs 18.30 (16.30 GMT) unless otherwise stated.

Toulouse v Castres 15:00 (14.00 GMT)
Biarritz v Grenoble
Brive v Perpignan
Racing Métro v Bordeaux-Bègles
Toulon v Bayonne
Oyonnax v Stade Français 20:35 (18.35 GMT)


Stade Toulousain v Castres Olympique
Stade Ernest Wallon, Toulouse

Without doubt, THE clash of Round Seven is set to be an intriguing battle. Toulouse have blown hot and cold this season and coach Guy Novès has already admitted he is a nervous man as they welcome the defending champions.

Toulouse won both games between these sides last season, but a total of just three points separated the teams over the course of the 160 minutes.

It's sure to be another tight tussle, with Castres boasting the best defence in the league this season so far while Toulouse rank third, but top the stats for least tries conceded at home.

Toulouse look set to be without emblematic skipper Thierry Dusautoir, who is struggling with a knee injury and Louis Picamoles is also in doubt due to a hip injury. Maxime Médard is, however, expected to start.

Castres – who have yet to win away from home this term – have a few injury worries in the front-row. Props Karena Wihongi (ankle) and Anton Peikrishvili (foot) are both ruled out while hooker Brice Mach has been rested as has second-row Rodrigo Capo Ortega.

Ibrahim Diarra is another absentee but prop Saimone Taumoepeau is set to play his first game of the season. Christophe Samson and Mathieu Bonello also return.

Results last season: Toulouse 23-22 Castres; Castres 16-18 Toulouse
Prediction: Never bet against the big red machine at home. Toulouse by a whisker.
Kick-off: 15:00 (14.00 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite

Biarritz Olympique v FC Grenoble
Parc des Sports d'Aguilera, Biarritz

With 16 yellow cards and two reds cards between them already this season, a clash between the two most indisciplined teams in France is sure to be a fiery affair with stone-last Biarritz under massive pressure to get a positive result.

Struck hard by injuries, the Basques sent a second-string team to Toulouse last week in favour of lining up a strong team this Saturday.

But the nurse's office is still seeing action with loose forward Raphaël Lakafia (three months out) the latest addition. Captain Imanol Harinordoquy has returned to training, but is not ready to play yet.

Good news is that centre Seremaia Burotu, full-back Joe Pietersen and scrum-half Yann Lesgourgues should be fit.

Just one spot above the drop zone, Grenoble have yet to win away from home this season and will be without lock Ben Hand, who is serving a one-match ban after getting a red card against Clermont.

Results last season: Biarritz 33-16 Grenoble; Grenoble 34-21 Biarritz
Prediction: The hosts are up for this one and Grenoble travel very poorly. Biarritz by seven points.
Kick-off: 18.30 (16.30 GMT)
Referee: Sébastien Clouté

CA Brive-Corrèze v USA Perpignan
Stade Amédée-Domenech, Brive-la-Gaillarde

Convincing bonus-point winners over Montpellier a week ago, Perpignan go in search of their first win on the road this season.

The star of the show so far has been wing Sofiane Guitoune, who is the league's top try scorer and was recently called up by France. Good news for USAP is that he inked a new two-year contract this week.

Brive have won two and lost four this season, and need to claim points at home in the fight to avoid relegation.

Perpignan, who have lost on their last three visits to Brive, will be without centre Lifeimi Mafi and wing Wandile Mjekevu, who have both been suspended for high tackles against Bayonne.

Previous result: Brive 17-9 Perpignan (2012)
Prediction: It'll be close. Brive by six points.
Kick-off: 18.30 (16.30 GMT)
Referee: Jérôme Garcès

Racing Métro 92 v Union Bordeaux-Bègles
Stade Yves Du Manoir – Colombes (Paris)

Don't expect a lot of tries from this game РRacing M̩tro have scored just four in six matches so far. Much was made of les Franciliens' big spending during the off-season, but we've yet to see any real fireworks.

Racing will however hope to build on last week's hard-fought win in Bayonne, a rare victory on the road.

Bordeaux-Bègles have not won in Colombes since 2007 but keep your eyes on flying Fijian wing Metuisela Talebula, who has touched down three times in four games. The 22-year-old has impressed so much, he has just been given a two-year contract extension.

Racing will be without loose forward Wenceslas Lauret and centre Jamie Roberts but Dan Lydiate is expected to make his return.

Results last season: Racing 18-7 UBB; UBB 15-22 Racing
Prediction: Home win. Racing by ten points.
Kick-off: 18.30 (16.30 GMT)
Referee: Patrick Pechambert

Rugby Club Toulonnais v Aviron Bayonnais
Stade Felix Mayol, Toulon

Last season Bayonne were thrashed 59-0 when they visited Stade Mayol and 50-10 the year before. After being on the wrong end of 40 points in Toulouse and 55 in Clermont already this season, one would be forgiven for expecting another heavy loss for the Basques, who sit twelfth in the standings.

Toulon welcome back skipper Joe van Niekerk after an injury lay-off but Matt Giteau is ruled out. Ali Williams took part in his first training season on Thursday and goes straight into the starting XV. Wallaby wing Drew Mitchell arrived on Wednesday but will watch for the stands.

A week before the all-important Basque derby against Biarritz, Bayonne are likely to rest some of their big guns. Centre Gabiriele Lovovalavu has also been ruled out for six weeks with a knee sprain. Skipper Mark Chisholm is also out with a broken hand.

Toulon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Rudi Wulf, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 David Smith, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Danie Rossouw, 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Virgile Bruni, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Jean Charles Orioli, 1 Xavier Chiocci,
Replacements: 16 Benjamin Noirot, 17