Planet Rugby

Top 14 Preview: Round 11

09th November 2012 10:22

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Toulon fly half Jonny Wilkinson v Clermont 2012

Clash at the top: Toulon visit Clermont

Toulon visit Clermont in a top-of-the-table clash on a weekend which sees many teams in the Top 14 shorn of players away on international duty.

With Clermont deprived a bunch of stars, Toulon will fancy their chances of becoming the first team to win in Volcano Country in three years as they travel with their army of foreign imports.

Biarritz welcome back Dimitri Yachvili when they entertain Perpignan while Parisian clubs Stade Français and Racing-Metro are both at home, hosting Agen and winless Mont-de-Marsan respectively.

Elsewhere, Castres travel to Bordeaux-Begles and Bayonne are away to Grenoble.

Fixtures:

Friday, November 9
Toulouse v Montpellier - Preview here

Saturday, November 10
Clermont v Toulon
Stade Français v Agen
Racing Métro v Mont-de-Marsan
Biarritz v Perpignan
Bordeaux-Bègles v Castres
Grenoble v Bayonne

Rugby Union betting odds

Standings:
1 Toulon 41
2 Clermont 36
3 Toulouse 34
4 Montpellier 32
5 Castres 28
6 Grenoble 26
7 Perpignan 21
8 Racing Metro 20
9 Biarritz 20
10 Stade Français 20
11 Bayonne 19
12 Agen 15
13 Bordeaux 15
14 Mont-de-Marsan 2


ASM Clermont Auvergne v RC Toulon
Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin, Clermont Ferrand

Arguably the biggest clash of the season so far, but what a shame it has to compete with a weekend of Test fixtures for spot in the limelight.

Apart from putting Clermont's home record under threat, the game between the leading duo could have significant consequences for the complexion of the standings as we approach a two-week break.

Toulon will be missing playmaker Frederic Michalak and centre Maxime Mermoz for the trip to Europe's most impenetrable fortress but can still boast the likes of Jonny Wilkinson, Matt Giteau, David Smith and Mathieu Bastareaud in their backline.

Up front it is a similar story for the Toulon side, with England veteran Simon Shaw and All Blacks Carl Hayman and Chris Masoe all present for duty.

"It's the 11th match of the season, and the last before a break, nothing but that," said Toulon coach Bernard Laporte.

Shaw said it was a "chance" for him to get off warming the bench and play.

"It's a good opportunity for me," he said, the 39-year-old likely to form a maturing lock partnership with Springbok enforcer Bakkies Botha.

Clermont sit five points adrift of Toulon's 41 points, and coach Vern Cotter said his squad were "excited to come up against a team that has done the best so far this season and wanted to produce a great game of rugby".

"The battle up front will undoubtedly be the key element of this match. I've felt since the start of the week a big desire from all the boys to find solutions and work for one another to be able to allow us to be raring to go come Saturday."

Results last season: Toulon won 15-12 in Toulouse (semi-final); Clermont won 0-17 away and 25-19 at home
Prediction: It's likely to be low-scoring affair since Clermont have the best defensive record in France and Toulon are the league's most disciplined side. Only the brave would bet against Clermont though. Clermont to sneak home by three or less
Kick-off: 15.00 (14.00 GMT)
Referee: Laurent Cardona


Stade Français Paris v SU Agen
Stade Charléty, Paris

Agen have not won in Paris since 2004 but will be desperate for a result that would draw them clear of the relegation zone.

Last season the Parisians were easy winners in this game and will look to build on their recent victory over Toulouse and bonus point snatched in Toulon.

Stade Français again look to their defence, which has been very solid on home soil this term, to set up victory.

Results last season: Stade Français won 53-27 at home; Agen won 37-13 at home
Prediction: Agen have struggled this season and Stade have been decent at home. Stade Français by ten points
Kick-off: 17.00 (16.00 GMT)
Referee: Jean-Luc Rebollal


Racing Métro 92 v Stade Montois
Stade Yves Du Manoir - Colombes (Paris)

Racing have been in the headlines this week with a scandal brewing over their alleged payments to keep Fijians to turn down national call-ups and the reported signing of Wales centre Jamie Roberts.

Neither should have any impact on this weekend's clash against a Mont-de-Marsan outfit that has scored just six tries in ten games.

Racing welcome back Mathieu Bélie, Sireli Bobo, Karim Ghezal, Juan Pablo Orlandi and Jone Qovu from injury while prop Eddy Ben Arous, who was released from the France squad, has also been included in the matchday group.

Previous result: Mont-de-Marsan won 32-23 in 2008 (ProD2)
Prediction: No mystery here. Racing by 15 points or more
Kick-off: 17.00 (16.00 GMT)
Referee: Salem Attalah


Biarritz Olympique v USA Perpignan
Parc des Sports d'Aguilera, Biarritz

One of the biggest stories in France this week has been the return from injury of Dimitri Yachvili, who has long proven pivotal in the fortunes of Biarritz.

The French international scrum-half's return could not come at a better time for the Basques who have followed a strong start to the season with a six-game losing streak.

Perpignan have been the complete opposite, turning a slow start around to climb up to seventh in the standings thanks to four wins at home. The Catalans have yet to win on the road however.

Results last season: Perpignan won both games: 29-24 away and 25-6 at home
Prediction: When in doubt in France, back the home side. Biarritz by five points
Kick-off: 18.30 (17.30 GMT)
Referee: Patrick Pechambert


Union Bordeaux-Bègles v Castres Olympique
Stade Jacques Chaban-Delmas, Bordeaux

UBB were convincing winners in this fixture last season but things have not gone well for les Bordelo-Béglais this term as they bounce in and out of the relegation zone.

They will however take heart from their record of three consecutive home wins over a Castres side that does not always travel well.

CO are on a three-game winning streak though and will back themselves to keep up with the leading quartet in the standings.

Castres have been boosted by the news that fly-half Rémi Talès has signed a two-year contract extension.

Results last season: Bordeaux 24-9 at home; Castres won 44-20 at home
Prediction: It should be a close one, but Castres have a habit of grinding out results. Castres by three points
Kick-off: 18.30 (17.30 GMT)
Referee: Cyril Lafon


FC Grenoble v Aviron Bayonnais
Stade Lesdiguières, Grenoble

Grenoble are still unbeaten on home soil so will fancy their chances against a Bayonne side that continues to fail to match the investment made in their squad with results.

The Basques have never won at Stade Lesdiguières in seven visits.

Previous: Grenoble won 26-16 in 2004
Prediction: The home side are looking very good. Grenoble by twelve points
Kick-off: 18.30 (17.30 GMT)
Referee: Cédric Marchat

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