Planet Rugby

Top 14 Preview: Round 12

22nd November 2013 12:02

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Jonathan Wisniewski Racing Clermont

Heavyweight clash: Racing visit Clermont

Just one point separates the leading five clubs in the Top 14 with Racing visiting Clermont this weekend hoping to keep up.

In fact, just five points cover the top ten sides as France's big guns must do without their current internationals this weekend.

Toulouse have welcomed back a few French representatives though and will expect a big win over Oyonnax while defending champions Castres face a tough trip to Montpellier.

Fixtures:

Friday, November 22
Toulon v Perpignan

Saturday, November 23
Bayonne v Grenoble
Bordeaux-Bègles v Stade Français
Brive v Biarritz
Montpellier v Castres
Toulouse v Oyonnax
Clermont v Racing Métro 92

Previews:

Aviron Bayonnais v FC Grenoble
Stade Jean Dauger, Bayonne

If past results are anything to go by, 12th-placed Bayonne will welcome Grenoble to the Basque country with open arms: 37-6 last October in the Challenge Cup, 31-24 last season and 41-12 in 2005.

Bayonne are boosted by the return of star wing Marvin O'Connor while young loose forward Charles Ollivon is set to make his professional debut due to the absence of Opeti Fonua, who is on international duty with Tonga.

Former Wallaby forward Peter Kimlin is set to make his first appearance for Grenoble, who also welcome back sharpshooting kicker Valentin Courrent.

Result last season: Bayonne 31-24 Grenoble
Prediction: Home win. Bayonne by 12 points
Kick-off: 14.15 (13.15 GMT)
Referee: Cédric Marchat


Union Bordeaux-Bègles v Stade Français Paris
Stade Jacques Chaban-Delmas, Bordeaux

The one team in the top five playing away is Stade Français, who have the best record of anyone in the league with seven wins from their 11 matches, although with just three bonus points, they actually sit fifth.

They will be without 11 players retained by international teams for the trip to Bordeaux-Begles, where last season they lost 30-22.

Stade full-back Hugo Bonneval admitted they will have their work cut out.

"Of course the absentees will weigh on us. Those playing in international matches are the players above the norm, those who make a difference in the key moments," he told Rugbyrama.

"Losing players like (Italy captain) Sergio (Parisse) or Pascal (Pape, the France lock) is tough. Most of our missing players are forwards. We're missing a loosehead, a tighthead, a lock, a number eight.

"Luckily we've got a great squad: to replace Sergio we have David Lyons, who's a Wallaby. To replace Pascal we have Gerhard Mostert, who's played for the Springboks.

"We've got a big squad."

Result last season: Bordeaux-Bègles 30-22 Stade Français
Prediction: Home win. Bordeaux-Bègles by five points
Kick-off: 14.15 (13.15 GMT)
Referee: Salem Attalah


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

Just one point off the play-off places, Brive have had an impressive start to the season and will expect another positive result against stone-last Biarritz.

Brive are unbeaten at home, where their 34-0 thrashing of the reigning champions highlighted their credentials.

The Basque visitors will however been eager to grab the opportunity to close the nine-point gap on Oyonnax, who are likely to get drilled in Toulouse.

Biarrritz are without talisman Dimitir Yachvili, who has a knee injury.

Previous result: Brive 32 - 7 Biarritz (2011)
Prediction: Home win. Brive by ten points
Kick-off: 14.15 (13.15 GMT)
Referee: Patrick Pechambert


Montpellier Hérault Rugby v Castres Olympique
Stade Yves Du Manoir, Montpellier

One of the big match-ups of the weekend sees high-flying Montpellier host the defending champions, with exciting All Black back Rene Ranger set to make his debut for the hosts.

New Zealander prop Paea Fa'anunu and South African centre Robert Ebersohn are also expected to make their first appearances for Montpellier, who start the weekend level on points with league-leaders Toulon.

The hosts are however set to be without skipper Fulgence Ouedraogo, who is sidelined until at least January due to a shoulder operation, which is a massive blow for Fabien Galthié's team.

Castres are currently tenth but only five points off the lead meaning a rare away win will put them right back amongst the pacesetters. They have won on four of their last nine visits to Montpol.

But CO are without a handful of key players including full-back Brice Dulin, fly-half Rémi Talès and prop Yannick Forestier, who are all on duty with the French national side.

Result last season: Montpellier 19-12 Castres
Prediction: Montpellier are very hard to beat at home. Montpellier by nine points
Kick-off: 14.15 (13.15 GMT)
Referee: Christophe Berdos


Stade Toulousain v US Oyonnax
Stade Ernest Wallon, Toulouse

No prizes for guessing who we are backing here.

Toulouse have scored 24 tries this season and conceded just 12 compared to Oyonnax who has scored 13 and conceded 23.

Toulouse are also boosted by the return of discarded French internationals Maxime Medard and Louis Picamoles, who will have a point to prove to Bleus coach Philippe Saint-André.

Oyonnax have been struck by a spate of injuries but welcome back fly-half Régis Lespinas

Previous result: n/a
Prediction: No mystery here. Toulouse to win with a bonus point
Kick-off: 14.15 (13.15 GMT)
Referee: Sébastien Minery


ASM Clermont Auvergne v Racing Métro 92
Stade Yves Du Manoir - Colombes (Paris)

Big-spending Racing Metro face a crucial test of their title aspirations when they travel to Top 14 favourites Clermont on Saturday.

Racing started the season well but three defeats in their last four league matches, including a humbling 9-6 reverse at basement-sitters Biarritz last time out, as well as a 22-20 defeat at home to Grenoble previously, have left the Parisians down in 10th in the standings.

With only the top six qualifying for the end of season play-offs, Racing seem to be off the pace but that's not the case in this Top 14 season, punctuated as it has been by remarkable competitiveness.

The top five teams are separated by just one point while there are only five points between the top 10.

Yet a defeat at the Stade Marcel-Michelin on Saturday, where Clermont have not been beaten in 65 matches, would start to see Racing lose touch with the front-runners.

Having beaten their rivals 13-9 at home in the European Cup in October, Racing could be forgiven for at least feeling a hint of confidence, not least because their opponents will have been harder hit by the international matches this weekend.

Clermont have five players on French international duty with Ti'i Paulo playing for Samoa and Napolioni Nalaga away with Fiji.

On top of that they have injury concerns over several players, including captain and centre Aurelien Rougerie. Racing's major absentee is Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton but his replacement, Jonathan Wisniewski is a French international.

Clermont, though, are one of four sides eyeing top spot at the end of the weekend playing at home.

Result last season: Clermont 13 -12 Racing Metro
Prediction: Never bet against Clermont at home. Clermont by seven points
Kick-off: 14.30 (13.30)
Referee: Cyril Lafon

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 19
Gloucester vs Exeter19:45
Saturday , September 20
Sale vs London Welsh14:00
London Irish vs Saracens15:00
Harlequins vs Wasps15:00
Bath vs Leicester15:15
Sunday , September 21
Newcastle vs Northampton14:00
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Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 19
Munster vs Zebre19:30
Cardiff Blues vs Ulster19:35
Connacht vs Leinster19:35
Saturday , September 20
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Glasgow14:40
Scarlets vs Benetton Treviso18:00
Sunday , September 21
Ospreys vs Edinburgh16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , September 19
Brive vs Toulon18:00
Saturday , September 20
Racing Metro Paris vs Toulouse18:00
La Rochelle vs Bordeaux-Begles18:00
Clermont Auvergne vs Lyon18:00
Castres vs Oyonnax18:00
Grenoble vs Bayonne18:00
Montpellier vs Stade Francais18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 19
Lions vs Pumas19:10
Saturday , September 20
Western Province vs Griquas15:00
Blue Bulls vs Sharks17:05
Eastern Province Kings vs Cheetahs19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Wednesday, September 17
Southland vs TasmanSouthland vs Tasman Preview
Thursday , September 18
Northland vs Taranaki19:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 14
Wasps 20 - 16 NorthamptonWasps vs Northampton Report
Newcastle 18 - 20 London IrishNewcastle vs London Irish Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Cardiff Blues 12 - 33 GlasgowCardiff Blues vs Glasgow Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Bordeaux-Begles 27 - 21 MontpellierBordeaux-Begles vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
ITM Cup
Waikato 26 - 21 Counties ManukauWaikato vs Counties Manukau Report
Hawkes Bay 41 - 0 Otago
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 13
Gloucester 34 - 27 Sale SharksGloucester vs Sale Sharks Report
Bath 53 - 26 London WelshBath vs London Welsh Report
Exeter 20 - 24 LeicesterExeter vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Rugby Championship
New Zealand 14 - 10 South AfricaNew Zealand vs South Africa Report
Australia 32 - 25 ArgentinaAustralia vs Argentina Report
More Rugby Championship results
Guinness PRO12
Leinster 42 - 12 ScarletsLeinster vs Scarlets Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Toulouse 9 - 13 Clermont AuvergneToulouse vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Racing Metro Paris 28 - 11 LyonRacing Metro Paris vs Lyon Report
Bayonne 23 - 6 Brive
Oyonnax 40 - 27 Grenoble
Toulon 24 - 28 Stade FrancaisToulon vs Stade Francais Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Griquas 31 - 27 PumasGriquas vs Pumas Report
Cheetahs 30 - 30 SharksCheetahs vs Sharks Report
Lions 35 - 33 Western ProvinceLions vs Western Province Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Bay Of Plenty 12 - 27 AucklandBay Of Plenty vs Auckland Report
Southland 36 - 34 Northland
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 12
Harlequins 0 - 39 SaracensHarlequins vs Saracens Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Benetton Treviso 10 - 21 MunsterBenetton Treviso vs Munster Report
Newport Gwent D'gons 15 - 17 Ospreys
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens29
2Bath29
3Leicester Tigers29
4Exeter26
5Northampton26