Top 14 Preview: Round Two

Date published: August 28 2015

An opening week of surprises showed that the Top 14 will be unpredictable during the World Cup with the big guns trying to keep up.

The big news in the opening round was Toulon's defeat at home to Racing 92, and they face another tough game, away to Castres on Sunday.

Racing will hope to build on their win at home to La Rochelle, reeling from their home defeat to Clermont, while promoted Agen host giants Toulouse.

Play-off contenders Montpellier and Bordeaux face tricky trips to Pau and Oyonnax respectively with champions Stade Français heading to Brive on Saturday evening.


Clermont v Grenoble
Agen v Toulouse
Oyonnax v Bordeaux-Bègles
Racing 92 v La Rochelle
Pau v Montpellier
Brive v Stade Français
Castres v Toulon

Agen v Toulouse
Stade Armandie, Agen

Both Agen and Toulouse will have come away from the opening weekend with reasons for optimism, but their clash at Armandie should tell us more about where they stand.

For Agen, a trip to Grenoble looked like a very tough opening fixture, but for an hour, Philippe Sella's team looked like they might spring a surprise.

Their collapse in the final 20 minutes is a concern, but it was still a promising start for the team that were favourites for the drop.

This weekend their task doesn't get any easier, with Toulouse coming to town, although Agen did win the last game between the two sides, two years ago.

Ugo Mola enjoyed a strong start to his time in charge of Toulouse, as they raced into a 24-0 half-time lead against Brive. With a number of youngsters getting their chance, the new era looked to be enjoying an easy transition, but a scoreless second half was slightly concerning.

Still, the displays of the likes of Arthur Bonneval, Edwin Maka and Yacouba Camara bode well moving forward for Toulouse, and another good sign would be if they can kick off their campaign with a win on the road, having struggled away from home early last season.

The teams:

Agen: 15 Mathieu Lamoulie, 14 Leka Tagotago, 13 Julien Heriteau, 12 Lionel Mazars, 11 Pierre Fouyssac, 10 Burton Francis, 9 Alexis Bales, 8 Marc Giraud, 7 Luke Hamilton, 6 Remy Vaquin, 5 William Demotte, 4 Tom Murday, 3 Dave Ryan, 2 Mike Tadjer, 1 Arsene Nnomo.
Replacements: 16 Hannes Franklin, 17 Giorgi Tetrashvili, 18 Api Naikatini, 19 Marc Baget-Rabarou, 20 Clement Darbo, 21 Bautista Guemes, 22 Eroni Vasiteri, 23 Ruaan du Preez.

Toulouse: 15 Maxime Medard, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Florian Fritz, 12 Toby Flood, 11 Arthur Bonneval, 10 Luke McAlister, 9 Sebastien Bezy, 8 Imanol Harinordoquy, 7 Talalelei Gray 6 Yacouba Camara, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Romain Millo-Chluski, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 Julien Marchand, 17 Vasil Kakovin, 18 Edwin Maka, 19 Gregory Lamboley, 20 Gillian Galan, 21 Jean-Marc Doussain, 22 Yann David, 23 Dorian Aldegheri.

Previous result: Agen won 22-9 in 2013
Kick-off: 14:45 local (12:45 GMT)
Referee: Pascal Gauzère

Oyonnax v Bordeaux-Bègles
Stade Charles Mathon, Oyonnax

Last season, the final play-off place came down to a missed conversion in the final minute of Bordeaux's season, with Oyonnax the beneficiaries.

Bordeaux will get their first chance at revenge this week away at Charles Mathon, becoming the first team to test the new artificial surface in a Top 14 game.

Oyo went down at Montpellier last week, eventually coming away with nothing, but they showed enough to prove that they won't be easy to beat this season.

Despite a change of coach and lots of turnover in the squad, they were again very strong up front, however their style may not lend itself to an artificial pitch.

Bordeaux, on the other hand, will relish playing on a quick surface, with their stable of strike runners. However they were far from serene at home to Castres last time out, and ended up hanging on at home.

The teams:

Oyonnax: 15 Florian Denos, 14 Dug Codjo, 13 Alaska Taufa, 12 Eamon Sheridan, 11 Silvere Tian, 10 Nicky Robinson, 9 Fabien Cibray, 8 Florian Faure, 7 Olivier Missoup, 6 Pierrick Gunther, 5 Fabrice Metz, 4 George Robson, 3 Marc Clerc, 2 Jody Jenneker, 1 Laurent DelBoulbes.
Replacements: 16 Thomas Bordes, 17 Antoine Guillamon, 18 Mickael De Marco, 19 Pedrie Wannenburg, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Regis Lespinas, 22 Vincent Martin, 23 Lukas Rapant.

Bordeaux-Bègles: 15 Jean-Baptiste Dubie, 14 Charles Brousse, 13 Felix le Bourhis, 12 Julien Rey, 11 Blair Connor, 10 Pierre Bernard, 9 Yann Lesgourgues, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Hugh Chalmers, 6 Luke Braid, 5 Berend Botha, 4 Julien Ledevedec, 3 Patrick Toetu, 2 Clement Maynadier, 1 Jean-Baptiste Poux.
Replacements: 16 Benat Auzqui, 17 Jefferson Poirot, 18 Adam Jaulhac, 19 Louis-Benoit Madaule, 20 Matthew Clarkin, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Nans Ducuing, 23 Francisco Gomez Kodela.

Last year's result: Oyonnax won 28-23
Kick-off: 18:30 local (16:30 GMT)
Referee: Maxime Chalon

Racing 92 v La Rochelle
Stade Yves du Manoir, Colombes

Arguably the two teams with the most contrasting opening weekends, Racing 92 will expect to make it two out of two at home to La Rochelle.

Les Maritimes were hammered at home to Clermont last week, having been almost unbeatable at home last season.

Their defence was particularly concerning, slipping off far too many tackles, although Racing probably won't be quite as clinical when they get their chances.

The Parisians sent out a lineup which mixed youth and experience in Toulon, and their youngsters didn't disappoint against the triple European champions.

Teddy Thomas is one of those to return this week, however the loss of Johan Goosen to a shoulder injury was a real blow, with Dan Carter and Rémi Talès both away at the World Cup over the next few rounds of matches.

As a result, there is a lot of pressure on Benjamin Dambielle, with Maxime Javaux likely to get his chance off the bench.

Racing won the espoir championship last season, and that should be a real benefit during these opening weeks of the season, especially with all the play-off contenders just trying to stay in touch while deprived of their World Cup stars.

The teams:

Racing 92: 15 Sean Robinson, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Henry Chavancy, 11 Marc Andreu, 10 Benjamin Dambielle, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Antonie Claassen, 7 Chris Masoe, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Francois van der Merwe, 4 Juandre Kruger, 3 Luc Ducalcon, 2 Virgile Lacombe, 1 David Khinchagashvili.
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Julien Brugnaut, 18 Ross Filipo, 19 Luc Barba, 20 Xavier Chauveau, 21 Maxime Javaux, 22 Etienne Dussartre, 23 Cedate Gomes Sa.

La Rochelle: 15 Charles Bouldoire, 14 Gabriel Lacroix, 13 Jean Pascal Barraque, 12 Pierre Aguillon, 11 Benjamin Lapeyre, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Enrico Januarie, 8 Kevin Gourdon, 7 Zeno Kieft, 6 Romain Sazy, 5 Leandro Cedaro, 4 Romana Graham, 3 Lekso Kaulashvili, 2 Hikairo Forbes, 1 Vincent Pelo.
Replacements: 16 David Roumieu, 17 Jordan Seneca, 18 Jone Qovu, 19 Mathieu Tanguy, 20 Jules Le Bail, 21 Fabien Fortassin, 22 Malietoa Seuli Hingano, 23 Thomas Synaeghel.

Last year's result: Racing won 27-8
Kick-off: 18:30 local (16:30 GMT)
Referee: Tual Trainini

Pau v Montpellier
Stade du Hameau, Pau

Pau made their long-awaited return to the Top 14 last Sunday away at defending champions Stade Français, and it's easy to pinpoint an area of improvement.

The Pro D2 champions picked up four yellow cards in Paris, far too many to stand any chance of springing a surprise on the champs.

Montpellier didn't have things all their own way at home to Oyonnax, but eventually a breakaway try, followed by a late score from Sitaleki Timani allowed them to pick up maximum points.

They also got an unexpected return to the squad after François Trinh-Duc was one of the five players cut by Philippe Saint-André when announcing his final 31 for the World Cup on Sunday.

The fly-half will undoubtedly have taken a hit to his morale, but looked to have benefited from seeing his family and friends, while he was cheered on his return to training by some loyal fans.

Where he fits into Jake White's plans remains to be seen, but while Demetri Catrakilis is still in South Africa, Trinh-Duc should quickly reestablish himself as first choice at ten.

Elsewhere Montpellier's new signings made promising starts to their Montpellier careers, with Cameron Wright and Jesse Mogg both on the scoresheet on debut.

The teams:

Pau: 15 Damien Traille, 14 Mathieu Acebes, 13 Mosese Ratuvou, 12 Julien Fumat, 11 Watisoni Votu, 10 Santiago Fernández, 9 Samuel Marques, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Jean Bouilhou, 6 Sean Dougall, 5 Daniel RamsayClaude Dry, 4 Julien Pierre, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Thomas Bianchin, 1 Julien Jacquot.
Replacements: 16 Vincent Campo, 17 Jérémy Hurou, 18 Claude Dry, 19 Paddy Butler, 20 Josefa Domolailai, 21 Thierry Lacrampe, 22 Jale Vatubua, 23 Chris King

Montpellier: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Andrew Smith, 12 Anthony Tuitavake, 11 Benjamin Fall, 10 Ben Lucas, 9 Benoit Paillaugue, 8 Kelian Galletier, 7 Ben Mowen, 6 Wian Liebenberg 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Bees Roux, 2 Charles Geli, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Mickael Ivaldi, 17 Yvan Watremez, 18 Robins Tchale-Watchou, 19 Martin Devergie, 20 Cameron Wright, 21 Francois Trinh-Duc, 22 Marvin O'Connor, 23 Pat Cilliers.

Previous result: Pau won 21-12 in 2005
Kick-off: 18:30 local (16:30 GMT)
Referee: Cyril Lafon

Brive v Stade Français
Stade Amédée Domenech, Brive

Brive welcome Stade Français in very different circumstances to their last meeting at the end of last season.

On that occasion Stade had nothing left to play for, having already secured their place in the play-offs.

Brive, on the other hand, needed a win to secure their Top 14 status, and they managed it in emphatic style, hammering the Parisians 27-0.

A repeat would be a surprise, with Gonzalo Quesada's side looking to build on last week's win over Pau.

Fly-half Jules Plisson made his return to action in that game, however Stade lost centre Jonathan Danty to a worrying knee injury.

Brive were disappointing in the first half of their defeat at Toulouse, seemingly unable to keep up with the pace of their hosts.

Stade are capable of playing both a tight and an open game, and Brive will be keen to show they can slow the Parisians down if they do try to spread the ball.

The teams:

Brive: 15 Gaetan Germain, 14 Benito Masilevu, 13 Arnaud Mignardi, 12 Benjamin Petre, 11 Malakai Bakaniceva, 10 Nicolas Bezy, 9 Jean-Baptiste Pejoine, 8 Sisa Koyamaibole, 7 Said Hireche, 6 Petrus Gherardus Hauman, 5 Arnaud Mela, 4 Peet Marais, 3 Giorgi Jgenti, 2 Thomas Acquier, 1 Goderdzi Shvelidze.
Replacements: 16 Francois Da Ros, 17 Lucas Pointud, 18 Victor Lebas, 19 Fabien Sanconnie, 20 Teddy Iribaren, 21 Thomas Laranjeira, 22 Alfi Mafi, 23 Damien Jourdain.

Stade Français: 15 Hugo Bonneval, 14 Jeremy Sinzelle, 13 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Djibril Camara, 10 Jules Plisson, 9 Julien Tomas, 8 Jono Ross, 7 Raphael Lakafia, 6 Sylvain Nicolas, 5 Gerhard Mostert, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Cherif Slimani, 2 Laurent Sempere, 1 Aled de Malmanche.
Replacements: 16 Remy Bonfils, 17 Dany Priso, 18 Tomas Vallejos Cinalli, 19 Mathieu Ugena, 20 Julien Dupuy, 21 Avenisi Vasuinubu, 22 Sekou Macalou, 23 Jean Baptiste De Clercq.

Last year's result: Brive won 27-0
Kick-off: 20:45 local (18:45 GMT)
Referee: Cedric Marchat

Castres v Toulon
Stade Pierre Antoine, Castres

The Top 14 final of both 2013 and 2014 is Sunday's clash, as Toulon try to bounce back from their home defeat on the opening day.

Castres were also beaten in round one, away at Bordeaux-Bègles, however the fact they kicked the ball out while trailing by three after 80 minutes showed that boss Christophe Urios was happy with a losing bonus-point.

Toulon also had to settle for a point at home to Racing, and their week has been disrupted by the arrest of tighthead Salesi Ma'afu after an alleged dispute in a car park earlier this month.

On the other side of the front row, Toulon have got back prop Xavier Chiocci, released by France, just like Castres' Rémi Lamerat.

Lamerat's return, as well as that of fit-again Romain Cabannes, is a boost for Castres, who were forced to play Sitiveni Sivivatu at inside centre last week.

It was some of their other overlooked players who impressed last time out, with Johnnie Beattie looking particularly strong at number eight for Urios' side.

Toulon also showed some promise, but fell away in the second half of their clash with Racing. They have enough depth to cope with considerable losses during the World Cup period, however Racing and Castres present a tricky opening pair of fixtures, and there's every chance they could be zero for two after two rounds of action.

The teams:

Castres: tbc

Toulon: tbc

Last year's result: Castres won 22-14
Kick-off: 17:00 local (15:00 GMT)
Referee: Alexandre Ruiz