Planet Rugby

Top 14 Preview: Round Six

13th September 2013 11:30

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Toulon centre Mathew Giteau L runs to score v Castres

Rematch: Castres v Toulon

League leaders Toulon travel to defending champions Castres for a rematch of last season's final on Saturday.

Toulouse have had the worst start to a season in their history but will expect to bounce back at home to struggling Biarritz.

In the Basque country, Racing are under pressure as they visit Bayonne.

Fixtures:

Friday, September 13
Perpignan v Montpellier

Saturday, September 14 (All kick-offs 18h30 local unless otherwise stated
Castres v Toulon 14h55
Bordeaux v Oyonnax
Clermont v Grenoble
Stade Français v Brive
Toulouse v Biarritz
Bayonne v Racing Metro 20h35

Previews:

Castres Olympique v RC Toulonnais
Stade Pierre Antoine, Castres

League leaders Toulon, who consigned Biarritz to the foot of the table with a 24-13 away victory last Sunday, travel to Castres on Saturday looking for their first win against the champions in four games.

Castres suffered a shock defeat last week at the hands of newly-promoted Oyonnax but back at home, will expect to get a positive result since Toulon have not won in the Tarn since 1986.

The latest big-name signing for Toulon is Juan Smith, the 32-year-old Springbok back-rower returning to the rugby fold after not playing since February 2011 due to an Achilles injury that required five operations.

"I haven't worn a rugby shirt for nearly three years so it's a huge privilege to wear Toulon's shirt," said the 2007 World Cup winner, who has been named in the extended RCT squad.

"I don't think there's a better team than Toulon with which to start playing again."

Although many believed he would never play again, Smith has passed all the necessary medicals and is raring to go.

"It's already been six months since my last operation, there's no risk of breaking down again, I'm ready to play this weekend or next weekend," said the 69-times capped Springbok.

Castres are without French international loose forward Antonie Claassen but welcome back Scotland back Max Evans.

Toulon lock Jocelino Suta has joined Fred Michalak and Joe van Niekerk on the RCT injury list.

Previous results: Castres 25-20 Toulon; Toulon 14-19 Castres
Prediction: Tough one to call but Castres have an impressive record at home. Castres by four points.
Kick-off: 14.55 (13.55 GMT)
Referee: Pascal Gaüzère


Union Bordeaux-Bègles v US Oyonnax
Stade André Moga, Bègles

A battle of the giant slayers! Between them, UBB and Oyonnax have toppled Toulouse, Clermont, Castres and Biarritz this season.

Bordeaux-Bègles have won their last six home games against Oyonnax so will start as favourites.

Previous result: Bordeaux 35-7 Oyonnax (D2, 2011)
Prediction: Home win. UBB by eight points
Kick-off: 18.30 (17.30 GMT)
Referee: Sébastien Clouté


ASM Clermont Auvergne v FC Grenoble
Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin, Clermont Ferrand

Clermont are seeking a 63rd home match without defeat at the Stade Marcel Michelin as they host a Grenoble side with a very poor record on the road.

With both Montpellier and Toulon travelling this weekend, it's likely Clermont will return to the top of the standings on Saturday.

The headlines this week have been dominated by Ma'a Nonu, who is a "99 percent certainty" to join Clermont, according to reports in the French press.

Grenoble welcome back full-back Fabien Gengenbacher from injury.

Clermont scrum-half Morgan Parra returned to training on Thursday having recovered from a back injury. Julien Bardy, Jamie Cudmore and Vincent Debaty are doubtful starters while Davit Zirakashvili has been ruled out.

Previous results: Clermont 44-20 Grenoble; Grenoble 10-17 Clermont
Prediction: No mystery here. Clermont to win with a bonus point.
Kick-off: 18.30 (17.30 GMT)
Referee: Patrick Péchambert


Stade Français Paris v CA Brive Corrèze Limousin
Stade Jean Bouin, Paris

Fourth-placed Stade Français, impressive 23-18 winners over Clermont last week, entertain second-last Brive looking for a third home win at their refurbished Jean-Bouin Stadium.

Stade are looking in their best shape for years and will hope to continue their run of strong results in the capital.

The hosts will be without skipper Pascal Papé who is serving a one-game suspension after being handed a red card against Clermont.

Previous result: Stade Français 28-17 Brive (2011)
Prediction: Home win. Stade Français by ten points.
Kick-off: 18.30 (17.30 GMT)
Referee: Cédric Marchat


Stade Toulousain v Biarritz Olympique
Stade Ernest Wallon, Toulouse

Toulouse backs coach Jean-Baptiste Elissalde called on his team to react after their humiliating loss to Montpellier last week, which gave the record league champions three defeats from their opening five games, their worst ever start to the Top 14.

"At this level, given the potential of the players we picked to run out, we expected more commitment," said the former France scrum-half.

"You can't go out on a pitch with so little desire.

"Some of our leaders let us down. We're trying to understand what happened and we must react from this coming weekend."

Hosting struggling Biarritz on Saturday is the perfect opportunity to make amends. Biarritz have won just once this season, and haven't won since at Stade Ernest Wallon since 2001.

Biarritz have named a squad full of youngsters with the hope of saving their big guns for next week's game against Grenoble.

Toulouse are sweating over the fitness of Thierry Dusautoir, who has a knee injury.

Previous results: Toulouse 19-14 Biarritz; Biarritz 22-17 Toulouse
Prediction: Big home win. Toulouse to win with a bonus point.
Kick-off: 18.30 (17.30 GMT)
Referee: Cyril Lafon


Aviron Bayonnais v Racing-Métro 92
Stade Jean Dauger, Bayonne

Racing-Métro's expensively-assembled squad have been the disappointments of the season so far.

Separated by just two points in the standings, Bayonne will fancy their chances of climbing about their visitors.

Matches between these sides have a history of being closely-contested affairs with winning margin being less than ten points in the last ten years.

Racing welcome back Georgian prop David Khinchagishvili and Fijian wing Virimi Vakatawa but are without lock Jone Quvo and scrum-half Sébastien Descons.

Previous result: Bayonne 18-25 Racing Metro; Racing Metro 15-10 Bayonne
Prediction: Home win. Bayonne by five points.
Kick-off: 20.35 (19.35 GMT)
Referee: Laurent Cardona

Forthcoming Fixtures
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All times are local
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Friday , November 28
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Leicester Tigers vs Wasps15:00
Exeter vs Saracens16:30
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Wales vs South Africa14:30
England vs Australia14:30
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Friday , November 28
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Zebre vs Edinburgh15:00
Leinster vs Ospreys17:15
Connacht vs Scarlets19:30
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Top 14
Saturday , November 29
Oyonnax vs Bordeaux-Begles18:00
Lyon vs Montpellier18:00
La Rochelle vs Bayonne18:00
Castres vs Racing Metro Paris18:00
Toulon vs Clermont Auvergne18:00
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France 13 - 18 ArgentinaFrance vs Argentina Report
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Leicester Tigers 21 - 21 SaracensLeicester Tigers vs Saracens Report
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Ireland 49 - 7 GeorgiaIreland vs Georgia Report
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PosTeamPPts
1Northampton830
2Exeter828
3Bath828
4Saracens825
5Leicester Tigers821