Top 14 Preview: Round Three

Date published: September 2 2016

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Just two weeks into the Top 14 season already there are some teams in must-win situations and round three has a host of huge match-ups.

It kicks off with a rematch of the 2015 final as Clermont travel to Stade Français before a mouth-watering south-west clash between Pau and Bayonne.

Winless duo Lyon and Grenoble then go head-to-head while Castres and La Rochelle face off with both teams still unbeaten.

Toulon bounced back to get their first win last week, and host a Brive side also fresh from a win in the Saturday evening game.

Then on Sunday Montpellier find themselves under pressure as they travel to Bordeaux-Bègles before the champions Racing 92 host the leaders Toulouse to complete the round.

Fixtures

Saturday

Stade Français v Clermont
Pau v Bayonne
Lyon v Grenoble
Castres v La Rochelle
Toulon v Brive

Sunday

Bordeaux-Bègles v Montpellier
Racing 92 v Toulouse

Stade Français v Clermont
Stade Jean Bouin, Paris

Kicking off with three straight away games was always going to be tough for Clermont, and yet after two weeks they remain unbeaten.

Camille Lopez was the star of the show in Montpellier, and with Brock James gone it's really his time to shine.

In terms of depth they are the match for virtually any team in the league with their ability to develop players, and they will fancy their chances of pulling off a surprise in Paris.

Stade were on the wrong end of a curious game in Brive, with five yellow cards handed out in all, but couldn’t take advantage of the fact they only received one of them.

They were much better on home soil in their opener however, against Grenoble, and will be looking to rediscover that form this time around.

The teams:

Stade Français: 15 Hugo Bonneval, 14 Waisea Nayacalevu, 13 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 12 Paul Williams, 11 Djibril Camara, 10 Jules Plisson, 9 Julien Dupuy, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Sylvain Nicolas, 6 Willem Alberts, 5 Alexandre Flanquart, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Heinke Van der Merwe
Replacements: 16 Laurent Sempere, 17 Aled De Malmanche, 18 Paul Gabrillagues, 19 Antoine Burban, 20 Clement Daguin, 21 Meyer Bosman, 22 Jeremy Sinzelle, 23 Giorgi Melikidze

Clermont: 15 Scott Spedding, 14 David Strettle, 13 Aurelien Rougerie, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Adrien Plante, 10 Patricio Fernandez, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Alexandre Lapandry, 6 Peceli Yato, 5 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 4 Paul Jedrasiak, 3 Clement Ric, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Etienne Falgoux
Replacements: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Raphael Chaume, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Damien Chouly, 20 Ludovic Radosavljevic, 21 Camille Lopez, 22 Noa Nakaitaci, 23 Davit Zirakashvili

Last year's result: Stade won won 14-9
Kick-off: 14:45 local (13:45 GMT)
Referee: Mathieu Raynal


Pau v Bayonne
Stade du Hameau, Pau

The battle of the two most iconic songs in French club rugby will take place at the Stade du Hameau as Pau, with their Honhada, welcome Bayonne and the Peña Baiona.

It will be the first meeting between the sides for a decade, and Bayonne come into the match on a high having made an unbeaten start to life back in the Top 14.

Pau, meanwhile, have lost both of their opening games, and in a curious circumstance of scheduling, both have played Toulon and Castres.

While form may not play in Pau’s favour, they had some promising moments against Toulon last time out, and at least secured a losing bonus point.

They will need much more this time around against potential relegation rivals, although the home side are thinking much bigger than that.

Under Vincent Etcheto, Bayonne have made the most of their resources, but without both Kade Poki and Félix Le Bourhis, their backline depth will be tested.

The teams:

Pau: 15 Tom Taylor, 14 Louis Dupichot, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Jale Vatubua, 11 Watisoni Votu, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Thibault Daubagna, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Pierrick Gunther, 5 Julien Pierre, 4 Abdellatif Boutaty, 3 Malik Hamadache, 2 Quentin Lespiaucq, 1 Jeremy Hurou
Replacements: 16 Mehdi Boundjema, 17 Jamie Mackintosh, 18 Daniel Ramsay, 19 Fabrice Metz, 20 Julien Tomas, 21 Charly Malie, 22 Paddy Butler, 23 Chris King

Bayonne: 15 Martin Bustos Moyano, 14 Bastien Fuster, 13 Florian Lapeyrade, 12 Adam Whitelock, 11 Julien Tisseron, 10 Lucas Meret, 9 Manu Saubusse, 8 PJ Van Lill, 7 Baptiste Chouzenoux, 6 Tanerau Latimer, 5 Pelu Taele, 4 Pierre Gayraud, 3 Ben Broster, 2 Manu Leiataua, 1 Jérôme Schuster
Replacements: 16 Simon Labouyrie, 17 Davit Khinchagishvili, 18 Pablo Huete, 19 Jean-Blaise Lespinasse, 20 Guillaume Rouet, 21 Raphael Lagarde, 22 Thibault Lacroix, 23 Lorenzo Cittadini

Previous result: Pau won 21-16 in 2006
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Laurent Cardona


Lyon v Grenoble
Matmut Stadium, Lyon

Every year Lyon come up with big ambitions, and on each of their previous incursions into the Top 14, they’ve struggled to get away from a relegation scrap.

Two points from their first two games is not the worst return, but if they are to avoid the drop they need to ensure it’s not a third week without a win.

They host a Grenoble side which is also under pressure after falling at home to La Rochelle last time out.

Gio Aplon might be as dangerous as ever, as shown by a magnificent individual try last Saturday, but they need more than that.

This game should bring back happy memories for Grenoble though. Two years ago the sides met and Grenoble scraped a losing bonus point which ended up saving them and sending Bayonne down.

The teams:

Lyon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Toby Arnold, 13 Hemani Paea, 12 Rudi Wulf, 11 Napolioni Nalaga, 10 Mike Harris, 9 Agustin Figuerola, 8 Carl Fearns, 7 Virgile Bruni, 6 Julien Puricelli, 5 Thibault Privat, 4 Taiasina Tuifua, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Mickael Ivaldi, 1 Albertus Buckle
Replacements: 16 Cameron Mapusua, 17 Alexandre Menini, 18 Josh Bekhuis, 19 Julien Bonnaire, 20 Frederic Michalak, 21 Theo Belan, 22 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 23 Stephane Clement

Grenoble: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Sisa Waqa, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Nigel Hunt, 11 Armand Batlle, 10 Jonathan Wisniewski, 9 David Mele, 8 Steven Setephano, 7 Fabien Alexandre, 6 Jonathan Best, 5 Aly Muldowney, 4 Ben Hand, 3 Walter Desmaison, 2 Laurent Bouchet, 1 Sona Taumalolo
Replacements: 16 Loick Jammes, 17 Denis Coulson, 18 Mathias Marie, 19 Henry Vanderglas, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Gilles Bosch, 22 Edward Sawailau, 23 Rossouw De Klerk

Previous result: Lyon won 29-24 in 2015
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Cédric Marchat


Castres v La Rochelle
Stade Pierre Antoine, Castres

A battle of the two more unlikely unbeaten sides sees Castres welcome La Rochelle to Pierre Antoine.

Christophe Urios has always been able to confound expectations, so it seems only appropriate that he leads a Castres team that everyone writes off every year.

With Benjamin Urdapilleta’s kicking they will always be in games, and last time out young Antoine Dupont got his chance alongside him in the half-backs.

La Rochelle, meanwhile, picked up a fantastic win at Grenoble, and look like they could be the surprise package this season.

Dutch flanker Zeno Kieft has been a revelation since coming in, and he finished off one of the tries of the season last time out.

If La Rochelle keep showing that ambition they will be great to watch and a possible play-off contenders.

The teams:

Castres: 15 Geoffrey Palis, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Thomas Combezou, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 David Smith, 10 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 9 Antoine Dupont, 8 Alex Tulou, 7 Steve Mafi, 6 Alexandre Bias, 5 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 4 Loic Jacquet, 3 Damien Tussac, 2 Brice Mach, 1 Antoine Tichit
Replacements: 16 Marc-Antoine Rallier, 17 Mihaita Lazar, 18 Christophe Samson, 19 Mathieu Babillot, 20 Julien Seron, 21 Julien Dumora, 22 Florian Vialelle, 23 Eric Sione

La Rochelle: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Vincent Rattez, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Zack Holmes, 11 Steeve Barry, 10 Anthony Fuertes, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Afaesetiti Amosa, 7 Kevin Gourdon, 6 Romain Sazy, 5 Damien Lagrange, 4 Romana Graham, 3 Mohamed Boughanmi, 2 Jeremie Maurouard, 1 Mike Corbel
Replacements: 16 Hikairo Forbes, 17 Jordan Seneca, 18 Mathieu Tanguy, 19 Jason Eaton, 20 Victor Vito, 21 Arthur Retiere, 22 Pierre Aguillon, 23 Uini Atonio

Last year's result: Castres won 67-20
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Pascal Gauzère


Toulon v Brive
Stade Félix Mayol, Toulon

Brive picked up an impressive win against Stade Français last time out but you have to go back more than a decade for their last win in Toulon.

Saturday night trips to Mayol have produced the odd surprise in the past, but it seems unlikely that Brive will be the team to shock Diego Dominguez’s men.

Toulon and Dominguez were of course in the news this week for giving their blessing to Leigh Halfpenny to go off with the Lions if selected next summer.

That means they will need to find a kicker before the play-offs, but for now they will hope their Welsh marksman can continue to fire.

Brive have a sharpshooter of their own in Gaëtan Germain, and he showed that he is more than just a boot with a fine try last week.

The teams:

Toulon: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Matt Carraro, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Vincent Clerc, 10 Francois Trinh-Duc, 9 Eric Escande, 8 Charles Ollivon, 7 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Juan Smith, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Juandre Kruger, 3 Marcel Van der Merwe, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Xavier Chiocci
Replacements: 16 Anthony Etrillard, 17 Laurent DelBoulbes, 18 Mamuka Gorgodze, 19 Liam Gill, 20 Maxime Mermoz, 21 Pierre Bernard, 22 Sebastien Tillous-Borde, 23 Levan Chilachava

Brive: 15 Gaetan Germain, 14 Sevenaia Galala, 13 Arnaud Mignardi, 12 Seremaia Burotu, 11 Benjamin Lapeyre, 10 Nicolas Bezy, 9 Jean-Baptiste Pejoine, 8 Sisa Koyamaibole, 7 Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 6 Petrus Gherardus Hauman, 5 Arnaud Mela, 4 Julien Ledevedec, 3 Kevin Buys, 2 Francois Da Ros, 1 Lucas Pointud
Replacements: 16 Thomas Acquier, 17 Karlen Asieshvili, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Fabien Sanconnie, 20 Benito Masilevu, 21 Teddy Iribaren, 22 Thomas Laranjeira, 23 Patrick-Albert Toetu

Last year's result: Toulon won 44-15
Kick-off: 20:45 local (19:45 GMT)
Referee: Alexandre Ruiz


Bordeaux-Bègles v Montpellier
Stade Chaban Delmas, Bordeaux

Two games in and Montpellier find themselves with just one point, meaning there is pressure on Jake White to find a solution.

A trip to Bordeaux is far from the easiest task when in need of a win, but almost exactly a year ago Montpellier emerged victorious from this fixture.

On that day it was the posts that came to their rescue, twice denying what would have been match-winning kicks, from the departed Pierre Bernard, and the very much still there Baptiste Serin.

Last week Bordeaux had to settle for a losing bonus point at Toulouse, something Montpellier hadn’t managed a week earlier.

Both teams have had to deal with off-field distractions this week. Bordeaux are waiting to hear if international loosehead Jefferson Poirot will be staying or going next season, while Montpellier are still waiting on winger Timoci Nagusa, who has not yet returned from his summer break.

The teams:

Last year's result: Montpellier won 24-22
Kick-off: 16:15 local (15:15 GMT)
Referee: Jérôme Garcès


Racing 92 v Toulouse
Stade Yves du Manoir

A rematch of last year's barrage when Racing just held on in the face of some fierce Toulouse pressure late on.

With two wins from two against play-off contenders, Toulouse will be relatively happy with where they stand so far this season, but it’s fair to say they haven’t quite fired just yet.

After two games at home to open, a trip to the defending champions will certainly be a much better test of their title credentials.

Racing bounced back from their opening day loss in Bordeaux to comfortably beat Lyon last week, and they will be under pressure to make it two in two at Colombes to keep pace at the top of the league.

The teams:

Last year's result: Racing won 28-13
Kick-off: 21:00 local (20:00 GMT)
Referee: Salem Attalah

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