Planet Rugby

Top 14 Preview: Round 22

21st March 2014 10:03

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Toulouse fullback Maxime Medard v Stade francais

Gala game: Toulouse visit the Stade de France

Toulouse visit the Stade de France on Saturday for the annual gala match against Stade Français with the stakes very high.

With Stade Français resurgent after a few lean years, the shine has returned to what has traditionally been the biggest domestic feature in France.

Elsewhere, third-placed Montpellier travel to Oyonnax, while reigning champions Castres, currently occupying the last of the six play-off berths, are at home to Brive.

Biarritz could be consigned to the drop if, as expected, they lose at Perpignan, while Bordeaux travel to Bayonne in a mid-table matchup.

Fixtures:

Friday, March 21
Clermont v Toulon

Saturday, March 22
Stade Français v Toulouse
Bayonne v Bordeaux-Bègles
Castres v Brive
Oyonnax v Montpellier
Perpignan v Biarritz
Grenoble v Racing Métro

Standings

Previews:

Stade Français v Stade Toulousain
Stade de France, St. Denis (Paris)

Saturday's opening game sees fourth-placed Stade Français host fifth-placed Toulouse with the latter's coach, Guy Novès, saying that he intended to call on his international contingent despite the proximity of the last Six Nations game.

Maxime Medard, Yoann Huget, Gael Fickou, Yoann Maestri and Louis Picamoles all played in the 22-20 loss to Ireland, while Jean-Marc Doussain came on as a substitute.

"Some have already been resting, others have still to have a day off but this weekend there will be no rest," said Novès.

"We're approaching a tricky part of the season. We have two trips against two of the best teams in France (Stade Français and Toulon) at the moment. We're going to be able to gauge our team and players based on these two matches."

Stade assistant coach Jeff Dubois said that Toulouse had battled back to their best and would be a handful to deal with in Paris especially with his side having several players coming back after international duty.

"We saw they (Toulouse) were back to their best when they scored 37 points against Perpignan," he said.

"The have got all their injured players back, especially Luke McAlister, who is a masterly playmaker, and all their internationals. We will be going up against a powerful team with 23 on-form players at their disposal," he added.

The hosts are unbeaten at their usual home ground at Stade Jean Bouin but their record is less impressive in St. Denis, where a lot of the Toulouse players will feel at home.

That said, Toulouse have claimed just one victory on the road this season, and it wasn't one to write home about in Biarritz.

Of the last 15 games between these sides in the capital, Toulouse have won just five.

Result in Round 11: Toulouse won 28-10
Kick-off: 15.00 local (14.00 GMT)
Referee: Patrick Pechambert


Aviron Bayonnais v Union Bordeaux-Bègles
Stade Jean Dauger, Bayonne

Bayonne are still very much embroiled in the relegation battle, sitting just four points clear of the drop zone. The situation is serious considering that Oyonnax - who sit in 13th spot - have a game in hand.

Bordeaux-Bègles - lying one place above their hosts but seven points to the better - have a bit more breathing space, but with just one win away from home this season, they could be dragged back into the fight for survival.

Bayonne have won three of the last four clashes between these sides but are not a sure bet having lost twice at home this term.

Result in Round 11: Bordeaux-Bègles won 34-6
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite


Castres Olympique v CA Brive-Corrèze
Stade Pierre Antoine, Castres

Brive have had an excellent first season back in the top division and lie just four points behind the defending champions, who occupy the last play-off spot.

Hopes of closing that gap look like a long shot though since Brive have yet to win on the road this season and Castres are unbeaten on home soil.

Indeed, Brive have lost on their last nine visits to the Tarn.

Castres are set to be without injured Scotland lock Richie Gray, France full-back Brice Dulin and centre Romain Cabannes. France fly-half Rémi Tales was unable to train at the start of the week but should be fit to play.

Result in Round 11: Brive won 34-0
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Laurent Cardona


US Oyonnax v Montpellier Hérault Rugby
Stade Charles Mathon, Oyonnax

Currently sitting in the drop zone, Oyonnax cannot afford to drop points on home soil but will back themselves to get the job done having lost just once at home this season - to Stade Français.

Indeed, the smallest club in the Top 14 have claimed the scalps of Clermont, Castres and Toulon!

Third-placed Montpellier will arrive harbouring serious ambitions though in their quest for a home play off.

Montpellier will be without France tighthead Nicolas Mas, who has been ruled out for three weeks with a knee sprain.

Result in Round 11: Montpellier won 45-20
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Jérôme Garcès


USA Perpignan v Biarritz Olympique
Stade Aimé Giral, Perpignan

Defeat in Catalonia will guarantee Biarritz's relegation but the Basques have promised to keep giving it their all in the hope of finishing the season on a high and retaining some of their players.

For Perpignan, just one place above the relegation zone and just points clear of Oyonnax, defeat is not an option.

The Catalans have three home games in their last five fixtures, including a showdown with Oyonnax, so victory this weekend could pave the way to safety.

USAP have won four of the last five games between these sides.

Result in Round 11: Perpignan won 16-12
Kick-off:18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Cyril Lafon


FC Grenoble v Racing Métro 92
Stade des Alpes, Grenoble

Racing-Metro travel to Grenoble's fortress in the Alps, hoping that a win could hoist them into the top six.

It's a vital game for both sides, who are still in the race for the play-offs, though defeat for Grenoble will almost certainly end their hopes of a place in the top six.

Revenge is on the agenda for Racing, after their shock defeat to FCG in Paris earlier this season. But in five visits to Grenoble, the team from the capital have won just once, in the ProD2 back in 2008.

Grenoble have been boosted by the news that Peter Kimlin has signed a three-year contract extension although the former Wallaby has been ruled out of this weekend with a calf injury. Hooker Vincent Campo and playmaker Valentin Courrent are also sidelined while try-scoring ace Alipate Ratini has been dropped.

Result in Round 11: Grenoble won 22-20
Kick-off: 20:35 local (19:35 GMT)
Referee: Christophe Berdos

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 5
Northampton vs Gloucester19:45
Saturday , September 6
Saracens vs Wasps14:00
Sale vs Bath14:00
Leicester vs Newcastle15:00
London Irish vs Harlequins16:30
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Rugby Championship
Saturday , September 6
New Zealand vs Argentina08:35
Australia vs South Africa11:05
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 5
Ospreys vs Benetton Treviso19:35
Munster vs Edinburgh19:35
Saturday , September 6
Scarlets vs Ulster14:40
Connacht vs Newport Gwent D'gons17:00
Glasgow vs Leinster17:15
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , September 5
Montpellier vs Castres20:45
Saturday , September 6
Brive vs Toulouse14:45
Clermont Auvergne vs Racing Metro Paris17:00
Lyon vs Oyonnax18:30
Grenoble vs La Rochelle18:30
Stade Francais vs Bayonne18:30
Toulon vs Bordeaux-Begles20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 5
Western Province vs Eastern Province Kings19:10
Saturday , September 6
Cheetahs vs Pumas15:00
Sharks vs Griquas17:05
Blue Bulls vs Lions19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Sunday , August 31
Taranaki vs Bay Of Plenty14:35
Auckland vs TasmanAuckland vs Tasman Preview
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Top 14
Saturday , August 30
La Rochelle 37 - 25 ToulouseLa Rochelle vs Toulouse Report
Grenoble 37 - 23 Bordeaux-Begles
Oyonnax 33 - 6 Stade Francais
Racing Metro Paris 17 - 10 ToulonRacing Metro Paris vs Toulon Report
Castres 30 - 6 BayonneCastres vs Bayonne Report
Lyon 24 - 6 Brive
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Griquas 25 - 36 CheetahsGriquas vs Cheetahs Report
Blue Bulls 18 - 23 Western ProvinceBlue Bulls vs Western Province Report
Eastern Province Kings 22 - 41 LionsEastern Province Kings vs Lions Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Counties Manukau 21 - 27 Hawkes BayCounties Manukau vs Hawkes Bay Report
Southland 22 - 33 Otago
North Harbour 16 - 22 WaikatoNorth Harbour vs Waikato Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Friday , August 29
Clermont Auvergne 20 - 21 MontpellierClermont Auvergne vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Pumas 32 - 22 SharksPumas vs Sharks Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Wellington 21 - 27 ManawatuWellington vs Manawatu Report
Thursday , August 28
Canterbury 48 - 3 NorthlandCanterbury vs Northland Report
Wednesday, August 27
Waikato 17 - 46 TaranakiWaikato vs Taranaki Report
Sunday , August 24
Manawatu 7 - 35 AucklandManawatu vs Auckland Report
Bay Of Plenty 27 - 56 TasmanBay Of Plenty vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 23
New Zealand 51 - 20 AustraliaNew Zealand vs Australia Report
Argentina 31 - 33 South AfricaArgentina vs South Africa Report
More Rugby Championship results
Top 14
Brive 6 - 21 Clermont AuvergneBrive vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Bordeaux-Begles 30 - 21 Racing Metro Paris
Bayonne 38 - 12 Oyonnax
Stade Francais 23 - 20 Lyon
More Top 14 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath00
2Exeter00
3Gloucester00
4Harlequins00
5Leicester Tigers00