Top 14 Preview: Round 24

11th Apr 2014, 14:10

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D-Day: Toulouse's season hangs in the balance

D-Day: Toulouse's season hangs in the balance

With just three rounds of the Top 14 regular season remaining, nine clubs are still in the hunt for a place in the play-offs.

With just three rounds of the Top 14 regular season remaining, nine clubs are still in the hunt for a place in the play-offs.

Clermont and Toulon return from European Cup heroics to challenge Montpellier for the championship lead in the race for automatic semi-final qualification.

Clermont host defending champions Castres on Friday, while Toulon travel to Bordeaux-Begles on Saturday.

Toulouse will look to eliminate Brive from the play-offs battle while Stade Français must win away to relegation-threatened Bayonne to stay in contention. Resurgent Racing-Metro welcome already-doomed Biarritz.

It's also crunch time in the bunfight to avoid relegation with Oyonnax's victory over Bordeaux last week having seen them jump up to 11th, two points ahead of Perpignan, whom they visit on Saturday.

Fixtures:

Friday, April 11
Clermont v Castres

Saturday, April 12
Bordeaux-Bègles v Toulon
Bayonne v Stade Français
Grenoble v Montpellier
Perpignan v Oyonnax
Racing Métro v Biarritz
Toulouse v Brive

Standings




Union Bordeaux-Bègles v Rugby Club Toulonnais
Stade Jacques Chaban-Delmas, Bordeaux

Only Toulon are capable of thrashing Leinster and losing to Oyonnax in the same season!

Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal, after watching his star-studded team outmuscle Leinster to set up a European semi against Munster in Marseille, hinted that it would not be the same team running out on Saturday as last weekend.

"We're going to have an incredible fixture list: we also have to ensure Top 14 play-off qualification," said Boudjellal.

"I'm not saying that we'll head to Bordeaux in flip-flops but it won't be with the same team as this evening."

UBB's defeat to Oyonnax last week seriously dented their chances of making the play-offs but they still very much in the running, especially since they host Biarritz on the last day. But repeat of the 41-0 thrashing they received against Toulon last year would end their hopes.

Jonny Wilkinson and hooker Craig Burden have both been ruled out for Toulon. Frédéric Michalak is set to start at fly-half while Bryan Habana will finally get some game time on the wing.

Result in Round 11: Toulon won 37-17
Kick-off: 18:30 local (16:30 GMT)
Referee: Mathieu Raynal




Aviron Bayonnais v Stade Français ParisEstadio Anoeta, Saint Sébastien (Spain)

A high pressure game if ever there was one, for both sides. While Stade Français seem to be running out of steam having mixed it amongst the leaders for most of the season, Bayonne are fighting for survival.

The importance of making the play-offs was shown by Stade Français fielding a second-string team in their defeat by Harlequins in the Challenge Cup quarters.

Stuck in the relegation zone and having lost four of their last five games, Bayonne cannot afford to drop any points. With a difficult trip to Grenoble and home game against the defending champions still on the menu, defeat at home may well signal the end of their stay in the top division.

Similarly, Stade Français have won just one game in their last six - including a draw against Toulouse. With a road trip to Toulon scheduled for the last day, the Parisians must get the job done this weekend.

Result in Round 11: Stade Français won 13-9
Kick-off: 18:30 local (16:30 GMT)
Referee: Alexandre Ruiz




FC Grenoble v Montpellier Hérault Rugby
Stade des Alpes, Grenoble

Having had a weekend off, Montpellier will travel to the Alps feeling refreshed and confident of claiming another win on the road.

Montpellier are coming off the back of the three-game winning streak. In fact, les Heraultais have won six of their last seven.

By contrast, Grenoble are on a downward spiral having lost their last four games.

Comfortable in mid-table a few weeks ago, another defeat on home soil could see them dragged into the relegation scrap. Victory, however, would be enough to guarantee their survival.

Result in Round 11: Montpellier won 25-18
Kick-off: 18:30 local (16:30 GMT)
Referee: Pascal Gauzère




USA Perpignan v US Oyonnax
Stade Aimé Giral, Perpignan

This is a true eight-pointer as the losers are likely to find themselves in the relegation zone at the end of the weekend.

Oyonnax have a fixture against Toulouse and a trip to Brive left this season so this is their best opportunity to secure their survival. It's a tough task as victory in Catalonia would represent only their second win on the road this season. The smallest club in the Top 14 have however been in decent form, as illustrated by their big win over Bordeaux.

Two points above the drop zone and two point behind their visitors, Perpignan are in a similar boat as they must face Toulon before an impossible mission to Clermont in the last two rounds.

USAP have won just two out of the last seven, leaving them no margin for error!

Result in Round 11: Oyonnax won 22-9
Kick-off: 18:30 local (16:30 GMT)
Referee: Cédric Marchat




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

Everything seems to be going in Racing Métro's favour of late. Three straight wins have left Racing as frontrunners for a home playoff and results elsewhere are helping their cause too with Bordeaux's defeat last week giving the Parisians some breathing room.

Les Franciliens have won three in a row and have two home games left this season, including a clash with Clermont next week, when the visitors are likely to have their minds on their European clash with Saracens a week later.

Biarritz have nothing but pride left to play for.

Result in Round 11: Biarritz won 9-6
Kick-off: 18:30 local (16:30 GMT)
Referee: Laurent Cardona




Stade Toulousain v CA Brive-Corrèze
Stade Ernest Wallon, Toulouse

Toulouse came out worse in the European Cup quarters, but will hope the routing by Munster will have shaken some life into their pack.

Coach Guy Novès said it was his job to pick his team straight back up for action to vie for a 21st consecutive appearance in the French play-offs. Currently sitting on the edge of the playoff zone, defeat is not an option.

"My job is to ensure that in six days the team has the right attitude to kick off in the Top 14 again," said Novès.

"If I'm down and out, we'll only have two or three days and that would be too short.

"We won the right on the pitch to play a quarter-final, and we lost. We're not going to be beating ourselves up over it, we