Planet Rugby

Preview: Clermont v Toulon

20th March 2014 20:02

Share:

Sitiveni Sivivatu Rudi Wulf Clermont Toulon Heineken Cup final

Imported firepower: Rudi Wulf and Sitiveni Sivivatu

This weekend's Top 14 action kicks off on Friday with a battle for the championship lead as Toulon face the ever-perilous trip to Clermont.

This fixture has become somewhat of a grudge match in recent times since Toulon came within inches of breaking Clermont's long unbeaten record in 2012 - sparking owner Mourad Boudjellal's infamous "refereeing sodomy" remarks - before taking revenge in last year's European Cup Final.

Clermont's unbeaten run now sits at 73 games over a period of four years and only the very bravest would bet against les Jaunards notching up another win in front of their fanatical supporters.

But they will have to do it without several of their international stars.

Lock Alexandre Lapandry injured a shoulder in France's loss to Ireland in the last of the Six Nations games, while centre Wesley Fofana is still sidelined with bruised ribs.

While coach Vern Cotter will have Mike Delany, Regan King and Raphael Chaume back at his disposal, he will have to do without Julien Malzieu, Julien Bardy and Benjamin Kayser.

While Toulon's entire Six Nations contingent is given a rest, Clermont have named France prop Thomas Domingo in their starting XV with Vincent Debaty and Damien Chouly on the bench. Flanker Julien Bonnaire returns from a fractured arm.

European champions Toulon will miss international centres Maxime Mermoz and Mathieu Bastaraud, both rested a week after the loss to Ireland, as well as Italian prop Martin Castrogiovanni.

Australian international Matt Giteau and Rudi Wulf will make up the centre partnership with Frederic Michalak getting the nod ahead of Jonny Wilkinson at fly-half. Toulouse-bound French international Alexis Palisson makes a rare start for Toulon on the wing. Josua Tuisova makes his first start since November .

England prop Andrew Sheridan and Springbok lock Bathies Botha are nursing long-term injuries, but coach Bernard Laporte will be able to recall scrum-half Sebastien Tillous-Borde, who has recovered from a foot injury.

Toulon won 25-19 when these team last met, back in October at the Allianz Riviera Stadium in Nice.

The two powerhouses of French rugby both have 60 points to their credit with five games to go before the end of the regular season when six teams will proceed into the playoffs. Both sides seem assured of achieving that primary goal, but will be keen to stay in the top two places, thus avoiding having to play in the first round of the playoffs.

Clermont: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 13 Aurelien Rougerie, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Naipolioni Nalaga, 10 Brock James, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Gerhard Vosloo, 6 Julien Bonnaire, 5 Nathan Hines, 4 Jamie Cudmore, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 2 Ti'i Paulo, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Replacements: 16 Benoit Cabello, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Julien Pierre, 19 Damien Chouly, 20 Thierry Lacrampe, 21 Mike Delany, 22 Regan King, 23 Daniel Kotze.

Toulon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Alexis Palisson, 13 Rudi Wulf, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Josua Tuisova, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Sebastien Tillous-Borde, 8 Steffon Armitage, 7 Virgile Bruni, 6 Juan Smith, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Jocelino Suta, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Xavier Chiocci.
Replacements: 16 Benjamin Noirot, 17 Florian Fresia, 18 Danie Rossouw, 19 Pierrick Gunther, 20 Jonny Wilkinson, 21 Theo Belan, 22 Michael Claassens, 23 Levan Chilachava.

Date: Friday, March 21
Venue: Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin
Kick-off: 20.45 local (19.45 GMT
Referee: Pascal Gauzère
Assistant referees: Sébastien Clouté, Christophe Malterre

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , November 28
Bath vs Harlequins19:45
Saturday , November 29
Leicester Tigers vs Wasps15:00
Exeter vs Saracens16:30
Sunday , November 30
London Irish vs Gloucester13:00
London Welsh vs Northampton14:30
Newcastle Falcons vs Sale Sharks15:15
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
International Match
Saturday , November 29
Wales vs South Africa14:30
England vs Australia14:30
More International Match fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , November 28
Munster vs Ulster19:35
Cardiff Blues vs Treviso19:35
Saturday , November 29
Zebre vs Edinburgh15:00
Leinster vs Ospreys17:15
Connacht vs Scarlets19:30
Sunday , November 30
Glasgow Warriors vs Dragons16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , November 29
Toulon vs Clermont Auvergne14:45
Oyonnax vs Bordeaux-Begles18:30
Lyon vs Montpellier18:30
La Rochelle vs Bayonne18:30
Castres vs Racing Metro Paris18:30
Toulouse vs Grenoble20:45
Sunday , November 30
Stade Francais vs Brive18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , November 23
Saracens 24 - 31 NorthamptonSaracens vs Northampton Report
London Welsh 5 - 26 Leicester TigersLondon Welsh vs Leicester Tigers Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Georgia 35 - 24 JapanGeorgia vs Japan Report
More International Match results
Guinness PRO12
Treviso 24 - 24 LeinsterTreviso vs Leinster Report
Edinburgh 28 - 13 Cardiff BluesEdinburgh vs Cardiff Blues Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , November 22
London Irish 23 - 33 BathLondon Irish vs Bath Report
Exeter 31 - 15 WaspsExeter vs Wasps Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Italy 6 - 22 South AfricaItaly vs South Africa Report
England 28 - 9 SamoaEngland vs Samoa Report
France 13 - 18 ArgentinaFrance vs Argentina Report
Wales 16 - 34 New ZealandWales vs New Zealand Report
Scotland 37 - 12 TongaScotland vs Tonga Report
Ireland 26 - 23 AustraliaIreland vs Australia Report
Romania 18 - 9 CanadaRomania vs Canada Report
More International Match results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , November 21
Harlequins 12 - 16 Sale SharksHarlequins vs Sale Sharks Report
Newcastle Falcons 20 - 10 GloucesterNewcastle Falcons vs Gloucester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Fiji 20 - 14 USAFiji vs USA Report
More International Match results
Guinness PRO12
Dragons 12 - 38 MunsterDragons vs Munster Report
Ulster 25 - 16 OspreysUlster vs Ospreys Report
Connacht 43 - 3 ZebreConnacht vs Zebre Report
Scarlets 19 - 9 Glasgow WarriorsScarlets vs Glasgow Warriors Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , November 16
Leicester Tigers 21 - 21 SaracensLeicester Tigers vs Saracens Report
Wasps 71 - 7 London WelshWasps vs London Welsh Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Ireland 49 - 7 GeorgiaIreland vs Georgia Report
More International Match results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , November 15
Sale Sharks 36 - 8 London IrishSale Sharks vs London Irish Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Northampton830
2Exeter828
3Bath828
4Saracens825
5Leicester Tigers821