Planet Rugby

Top 14 Preview: Round Nine

26th October 2012 09:53

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Stade Francais centre Martin Rodriguez Gurruchaga 2ndR vies with Toulouse

Gala in Paris: Stade Francais v Toulouse

Stade Français and Toulouse face off in their annual gala fixture at the Stade de France on Saturday while leaders Toulon host Bayonne.

Fourth-placed Montpellier entertain fifth-placed Grenoble while Perpignan are at home to a Racing Metro side that have played a lot of attractive rugby with relatively little reward this season.

Castres travel to a resurgent Agen, while Bordeaux-Begles head to Mont-de-Marsan in the battle of the basement.

Fixtures:

Friday, October 26
Clermont v Biarritz - Preview here

Saturday, October 27
Stade Français v Toulouse
Agen v Castres Olympique
Mont-de-Marsan v Bordeaux-Bègles
Montpellier v Grenoble
Toulon v Bayonne
Perpignan v Racing Métro

Rugby Union betting odds

Standings:
1 Toulon 32
2 Toulouse 28
3 Clermont 28
4 Montpellier 23
5 Grenoble 22
6 Castres 20
7 Biarritz 19
8 Racing-Metro 19
9 Perpignan 16
10 Stade Français 15
11 Bayonne 15
12 Agen 14
13 Bordeaux 11
14 Mont-de-Marsan 1


Previews:

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

Once the biggest fixture in French rugby, the clash of the two most decorated clubs in the country has lost some of its allure in recent years as Stade Français struggle to live up to their pedigree.

Chronically inconsistent and stuck at the wrong end of the standings, victory for the Parisians would not only be a massive morale booster, it could well kick-start their season.

Toulouse come off the back of two wins in Europe but will be without injured skipper Thierry Dusautoir and suspended hooker Christopher Tolofua. Gürtho Steenkamp, Gary Botha, Patricio Albacete and Louis Picamoles all missed training this week.

Dusautoir's replacement in the France squad is team-mate and fellow flanker Yannick Nyanga, who insisted that Toulouse would overcome a raft of injuries to put their best foot forward for the match at the 80,000-seater Stade de France.

"If matches were won each time just on the line-ups on paper, it would be too easy," said Nyanga.

"We would be unbeaten or not far from it, apart from Toulon, maybe, who have a lot of internationals. We're trying to find consistency and precision."

Results last season: Toulouse won both games: 22-18 at home; 18-15 in Paris
Prediction: The Stade de France is like a second home for les Rouge et Noirs. Toulouse by six points
Kick-off: 15.00 (13.00)
Referee: Laurent Cardona


Stade Montois v Union Bordeaux-Bègles
Stade Guy Boniface, Mont-de-Marsan

Le match de la peur (the match of fear) as they like to say in France. Stone last Mont-de-Marsan will fancy their chances of claiming their first win of the season against a UBB side that have not been great on the road.

In fact, history points clearly in the hosts' favour as les Montois have won the last 11 games between these sides.

Mont-de-Marsan will also take confidence out of their narrow (28-30) loss to Stade Français three weeks ago.

UBB are without injured Kiwi prop Hikairo Forbes, wing Blair Connor and Pumas flyer Rafael Carballo but Aussie lock Cameron Treloar returns to the bench after a three-week ban.

Previous result: Mont-de-Marsan won 23-13 in 2011 (ProD2)
Prediction: A first win for Mont-de-Marsan could be on the cards. Mont-de-Marsan by a whisker
Kick-off: 18.30 (16.30 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite


SU Agen v Castres Olympique
Stade Armandie, Agen

After four straight losses - including a hiding in Toulouse - to start their season, Agen have gotten the train back on the rails with three consecutive victories.

Les Agenais are nevertheless still flirting with the relegation zone and a clash against a Castres side bubbling with confidence after an impressive win over Northampton in Europe will be a tough assignment.

But Castres' record in Agen is not a good one with four draws and 16 losses in their last 20 visits to Stade Armandie.

Results last season: Agen won 23-12 at home; Castres won 30-11 at home
Prediction: It's tough to bet against Castres but Agen's home record cannot be ignored. Agen by less than five points
Kick-off: 18.30 (16.30 GMT)
Referee: Sébastien Clouté


Montpellier HR v FC Grenoble
Stade Yves Du Manoir, Montpellier

Few would have expected this game to be a mid-table clash but Grenoble continue to defy the odds. Montpellier showed how good they can be by thumping Sale in the Heineken Cup last week but will be wary of a Grenoble side travelling under zero pressure.

Grenoble are coming off the back of wins over Racing Métro and Perpignan but have yet to taste victory on the road.

Montpellier centre Thomas Combezou signed a new three-year contract this week.

Previous result: Montpellier 35-25 in 2005
Prediction: Les Héraultais are a solid bet at home. Montpellier by twelve points
Kick-off: 18.30 (16.30 GMT)
Referee: Sébastien Minery


RC Toulon v Aviron Bayonnais
Stade Felix Mayol, Toulon

The undisputed leaders with just one loss this season, Toulon will expect to cement their spot at the top of the table for another week against a visiting Basques side that has blown more cold than hot this term.

Bayonne are on an upward trend however following consecutive wins in the Top 14 (including the Basque derby) and two victories in the Challenge Cup.

The scoreline in last season's game at Stade Mayol suggests that the hosts should be easy winners though.

Toulon have a full squad to choose from and welcome back skipper Joe van Niekerk from a series of injuries.

Bayonne welcome back fly-half Jacques-Louis Potgieter but centre Manu Ahotaeiloa and prop Neemia Tialata are injured.

Results last season: Toulon won 50-10 at home; 12-12 draw in Bayonne
Prediction: RCT look unstoppable on home soil. Toulon by fifteen points
Kick-off: 18.30 (16.30 GMT)
Referee: Jean-Luc Rebollal


USA Perpignan v Racing-Métro 92
Stade Aimé Giral, Perpignan

Peprignan will be looking to leapfrog their visitors in the standings but will need to adjust to the intensity of facing one of the Top 14's big guns after two easy wins over minnows in the Challenge Cup.

Racing travel south desperate to avoid a third straight loss in domestic competition and will have to show more than their disappointing display against Saracens in Brussels.

USAP have rested lock Robins Tchale-Watchou.

Results last season: 14-14 draw in Perpignan; Racing won 47-23 at home
Prediction: Tough one to call but USAP have looked better at home this season. Perpignan by three points
Kick-off: 20.40 (18.40 GMT)
Referee: Cédric Marchat

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