Top 14 Preview: Round Two

20th Aug 2010, 13:12

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Imanol Harinordoquy: Back as Biarritz host Toulon

Imanol Harinordoquy: Back as Biarritz host Toulon

After a false start at home last week, Top 14 favourites Toulon must travel to Biarritz on Friday while Castres will host Toulouse in Béziers.

After a false start at home last week, Top 14 favourites Toulon must travel to Biarritz on Friday while Castres will host Toulouse in Béziers.

It took just one round of the French domestic championship to produce a huge upset, but Bayonne were good-value for their win in Toulon and the Basques will expect to make it two from two when they host newcomers Agen this weekend.

Leaders after Round One Stade Francais will fancy their chances of staying top of the standings at home to La Rochelle although the newly-promoted Maritimes showed they won't be pushovers by marking their entry into the top flight with an opening-day victory over Castres.

Facing a tough draw in the first half of the season, Brive got off to a terrible start by losing to Racing Métro last week and have another difficult assignment when they host 2009 champions Perpignan.

Racing will be hunting their second win on the road in Montpellier while defending champs Clermont will be looking for their first success of the season in Bourgoin.

Saturday's only game sees Brive move their gala match with the European champions to the 18,000-seater Stade de la Méditérranée in Béziers - which is actually closer to Toulouse!

Fixtures:

Friday, August 20

Bourgoin v Clermont
Brive v Perpignan
Stade Français v La Rochelle
Montpellier v Racing Métro
Bayonne v Agen
Biarritz v Toulon

Saturday, August 21

Castres v Toulouse

Standings:

1 Stade Francais 5
2 Toulouse 5
3 Biarritz 4
4 Perpignan 4
5 Racing Metro 4
6 La Rochelle 4
7 Bayonne 4
8 Toulon 1
9 Brive 1
10 Castres 1
11 Clermont 0
12 Montpellier 0
13 Agen 0
14 Bourgoin 0
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Previews:

Friday, August 20

CS Bourgoin-Jallieu v ASM Clermont Auvergne
Stade Pierre Rajon, Bourgoin

Sans points, the champions make the relatively short trip to Bourgoin aiming for all five, but they must improve their line-out if they are to get anything at Pierre Rajon.

Bourgoin coach Xavier Péméja read the riot act to his team, especially the forwards, after they were totally dominated in all phases in Paris last week.

Deprived of Mickaël Forest, Sylvère Tian and Olivier Milloud, who are all injured, the Berjalliens could be in for another hiding up front. Argentine fly-half Alberto Di Bernardo, who hurt his hand against Stade Français, should however be fit to keep his place.

Unlike last week, Clermont will have all their French internationals available except winger Julien Malzieu, who has an Achilles injury. South African centre Marius Joubert and Georgian prop Davit Zirakashvili have also been ruled out of a squad that features eight changes.

Despite the disappointment of last week's loss in Perpignan, Clermont coach Vern Cotter is playing a patient game.

"We know we have things to put right for the match against Bourgoin," he said.

"But that will not be easy to see come right straight away as Bourgoin pose us a real problem."

Results last season: Clermont won both games: 28-37 away; 32-3 at home
Prediction: Easy (even if Cotter is being rather diplomatic). Clermont by at least twelve points
Kick-off: 18:45 (16:45 GMT)
Referee: Pascal Gauzère
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CA Brive Corrèze v USA Perpignan
Stade Amédée Domenech, Brive

One of two teams to lose at home last week (to Racing Métro), Brive simply cannot afford another faux pas as they face a very unfavourable draw in the next few months.

Victory was within the reach for the Corréziens last week, but some poor finishing has left them under pressure in only the second round.

Perpignan's set piece was in impressive form against Clermont and the Catalans will base their attack on their pack once again.

If you want to stay away from hospital, don't put on a Perpignan number ten jersey. The Catalans have lost three fly-halves to injury and sickness in a matter of weeks.

This means that there is a huge opportunity for France U20 international Gilles Bosch to shine.

Results last season: Perpignan won 21-9 at home; Brive won 29-9 at home
Prediction:It'll be close but we'll back the hosts. Brive by a whisker
Kick-off: 19:00 (17:00 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite
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Stade Français v Stade Rochelais Atlantique
Stade Charléty, Paris

What a start for La Rochelle! Even though their scrum was being demolished, Les Maritimes somehow managed to tackle their way to four points against Castres. No one has given the league's smallest club a hope in hell of avoiding the drop, but in front of their home fans, they put on a display of pure courage.

But the newcomers shouldn't expect Stade Français fly-half Lionel Beauxis to let them off as lightly in front of goal as they were last week. They also face another very strong scrummaging unit.

Perhaps more importantly, they will face a Parisian side out to play expansive rugby and, unlike Castres, seem to have the form to make their attacks count.

James Haskell takes over from Pierre Rabadan in the back row in the only change to Stade's bonus-point earning team.

La Rochelle on Wednesday signed experienced Romanian international prop Petrisor Toderasc on a one-year contract. The 50-cap, 30-year-old had been looking for a club since he was released after a five-year spell with Brive and should make his debut next week against Bourgoin.

Prediction: In Paris? Stade Français to win with a bonus point
Kick-off: 19:00 (17:00 GMT)
Referee: Laurent Cardona
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Montpellier HR v Racing-Métro 92
Stade Yves Du Manoir, Montpellier

Montpellier narrowly missed out on a losing bonus-point in Biarritz last week and if it wasn't for a very poor start to the game, they could have caused a major upset. Despite a loss in the first game of the Fabien Galthié era, les Héraultais will take a lot of confidence from their strong second-half comeback.

Title contenders Racing-Métro, who play three away games in the first three weeks, got the job done in Brive last week without doing anything flamboyant. Ahead of a tough trip to Toulon next week, they need to get their pack moving.

Lionel Nallet and Francois Steyn are both back in the squad with the South African starting at full-back.

Montpellier skipper Fulgence Ouedraogo is fit to play despite undergoing surgery to his eye during the week. Full-back Benjamin Thiéry will make his first appearance this season off the bench but centre Grant Rees and Argentine prop