Preview: Top 14, Round Twelve

05th Nov 2009, 15:30

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Clash on the South coast: Perpignan v Toulon

Clash on the South coast: Perpignan v Toulon

With a long break on the horizon, expect plenty of fireworks as Toulon visit leaders Perpignan while Castres host Clermont.

With a sixteen-day break on the horizon, expect plenty of fireworks on Thursday as Toulon visit leaders Perpignan while chasers Castres and Clermont face off.

Round Twelve has been moved forward to allow the French national side a couple more days together ahead of their test against South Africa.

The result is a gap of just five days since the last weekend's clashes which isn't much time to prepare.

The headline-grabbing game of the week is Toulon's trip to the defending champions. Unrecognisable from the expensively-assembled misfiring misfits they were last term, Toulon head towards the season's half-way mark above giants Biarritz and Stade Français in the standings.

Biarritz host Racing-Métro, who will also be pleased with their performance so far in the top flight after beating Toulouse last week to extend their winning streak to four games.

At wrong end of the table, Brive and Bayonne will clash in an unexpected battle on the edge of the relegation zone, with the losers set to be in massive trouble.

Elsewhere, Stade Français will not want to concede any more ground to the leaders - they trail Perpignan by eight points - but in a home match against tailenders Albi they should not have too many problems.

Montpellier will be out to make it three wins on the trot at home to Montauban.

Much of the news this week revolved around the French government's proposed tax reforms which are set to cost the clubs a bundle and have been greeted with unbridled contempt.

Fixtures:

Castres v Clermont
Toulouse v Bourgoin
Montpellier v Montauban
Brive v Bayonne
Stade Français v Albi
Biarritz v Racing Métro
Perpignan v Toulon

Standings:

1 Perpignan 35
2 Castres 34
3 Clermont 33
4 Toulouse 31
5 Toulon 30
6 Biarritz 28
7 Racing Metro 27
8 Stade Français 27
10 Montauban 25
9 Bourgoin 22
11 Montpellier 21
12 Brive 20
13 Bayonne 17
14 Albi 9

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Castres Olympique v Clermont Auvergne
Stade Pierre Antoine, Castres

It's been 32 years since Clermont won in Castres, and with only two wins on the road this season, Les Jaunards will know they have a massive challenge on their hands as second plays third.

Unbeaten at home this season, the Castrais are flying high on confidence. Narrowly beaten in Perpignan last week, they will be hoping for better in the second of four consecutive matches against heavyweight competition (with Toulouse and Biarritz up next).

Another success on Thursday will be enough to confirm Laurent Travers and Laurent Labit's team as genuine play-offs contenders.

The visitors will arrive with their brand-new signing, Tasesa Lavea. He is expected to start at fly-half or inside centre. Mario Ledesma and Gonzalo Canale are however doubtful.

Castres scrum-half Sébastien Tillous-Borde is out of action for eight weeks. Prop Luc Ducalcon is also an unlucky absentee after having to withdraw from the national squad with a knee injury.

Prediction: Three decades is a long time without a win at Pierre Antoine. Who are we to defy history? Castres to win by five.
Kick-off: 19:30 (17.30 GMT)
Referee: Christophe Berdos
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Stade Toulousain v CS Bourgoin-Jallieu
Stade Ernest Wallon, Toulouse


Soon to be deprived of fifteen internationals during the Test window, Toulouse will be out to rack up a full house of points at home.

The Haut-Garonnais have not lost in Toulouse since April 2007 (22 matches) and it's highly unlikely Bourgoin will upset the apple cart.

Manager Guy Novès read the riot act after last week's loss to Racing-Métro, accusing a bunch of players of thinking more about the upcoming tests than the task at hand.

For a change, the Toulousain injury list is relatively short, but Jean Bouilhou is doubtful after breaking his nose in Paris.

Prediction: Bourgoin would probably be happy with a losing bonus point, but they shouldn't bank on it. Toulouse to win with a bonus point.
Kick-off: 19:30 (17.30 GMT)
Referee: Hervé Dubes
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Montpellier HRC v Montauban
Stade Yves Du Manoir, Montpellier


Montpellier and Montauban have been close rivals in the standings in recent seasons and this time around it's no different. Both clubs have been horribly inconsistent this year, but have a common goal: get as far away from the relegation zone as possible, as soon as possible.

Both teams are capable of big things: Montauban's win over Biarritz last weekend is matched by Montpellier's success over Clermont a week before.

Montpol have been in great form at home, and finally got an away win when they beat Albi last Saturday. A third consecutive win will lift them into mid-table.

Montauban captain Matthew Clarkin will be back from serving his suspension but fastman Shannon Paku (ankle) and scrum-half Julien Audy (thigh) are unlikely to be fit.

For the hosts, French internationals Fulgence Ouedraogo and Francois Trinh-Duc will start while Grant Rees has recovered sufficiently from his shoulder injury to be in the squad.

South African utility back Len Olivier has been signed by Montauban to fill in for injured Regis Lespinas. The 23-year-old - who can play at fly-half, centre or full-back - arrives from the Sharks.

Centre Lespinas has been ruled out for eight months after undergoing surgery for ruptured knee ligaments.

Prediction:Montpellier hare looking good at home. We'll back them to continue the good work at Yves du Manoir. Montpellier to win by three
Kick-off: 19:30 (17.30 GMT)
Referee: Mathieu Raynal
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CA Brive-Corrèze v Aviron Bayonnais
Stade Amédée Domenech, Brive


They're calling this one a 'match of fear' and never was a truer word spoken. With Bayonne in the red zone, and Brive one place above them, both clubs will see this as an eight-pointer.

Axes have been swinging at both clubs: Manager Richard Dourthe's exclusion from first team dealings at Bayonne seems to have had little affect as they were woefully boring and ineffective against Toulon.

After seven straight losses in France and Europe, Brive salvaged a draw in Bourgoin last week following the sacking of coach Laurent Seigne, but confidence is still lacking.

Brive have lost three out of their last four home games and the crowd at Amédée Domenech expect a revival.