Top 14 Preview: Round Nine

29th Oct 2011, 15:51

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The big one: Toulouse v Stade Français

The big one: Toulouse v Stade Français

Round Nine of the Top 14 sees defending champions Toulouse up against traditional rivals Stade Français on Saturday.

Round Nine of the Top 14 sees defending champions Toulouse up against traditional rivals Stade Français in this clash of the heavyweights.

Fixtures:

Friday, October 28
Castres v Racing-Metro
Saturday, October 29
Bayonne v Perpignan
Toulon v Brive
Clermont v Biarritz
Toulouse v Stade Francais
Agen v Montpellier

Standings:
1 Clermont 30
2 Castres 30
3 Toulouse 28
4 Toulon 24
5 Agen 20
6 Brive 18
7 Racing-Metro 17
8 Perpignan 17
9 Stade Français 15
10 Montpellier 13
11 Bordeaux-Begles 13
12 Lyon OU 12
13 Bayonne 11
14 Biarritz 10

Previews:

Castres Olympique v Racing-Métro 92
Stade Pierre Antoine, Castres

Three time champions Castres will look to build on their stunning start to the Top 14 campaign on Friday with an eighth successive win when they host Racing-Metro.

Castres, who have not won the title since 1993, are building on the good impression they made last season when they reached the play-offs only to be beaten by eventual finalists Montpellier.

They face a Racing-Metro side that has struggled to make an impact this season, failing to cope without their players who were away at the World Cup.

The expensively-assembled Paris-based outfit have won just three of their eight matches and went down to Toulon at home last Saturday which sees them in seventh spot, 13 points adrift of joint leaders Castres and Clermont.

Castres have virtually no injury problems and their only selection poser is whether to recall their record points scorer, full-back Romain Teulet, or leave the in-form outfit intact.

Castres have certainly not missed Teulet's kicking ability as South African Rory Kockott showed last Saturday when he landed seven penalties in the 21-16 victory over Montpellier.

Prediction: Unbeaten at home, Castres will be favourites against a team that have lost both fixtures at Castres since their return to top flight. Castres by seven!
Kick-off: 20.45 (18:45 GMT)
Referee: Patrick Pechambert




Saturday

Aviron Bayonnais v USA Perpignan
Stade Jean Dauger, Bayonne

Perpignan will look to end a run of three consecutive Top 14 defeats when they tackle 13th-placed Bayonne on Saturday.

The visitors have conceded 70 points in their last two matches, and shipped nine tries with just three points to show for their efforts.

Perpignan president Paul Goze admitted his club was suffering.

"It's a huge disappointment. Personally speaking, it's the toughest period I have ever spent as president, for the players also," he said.

"But it's at times like these that we have to stand together. We have played eight games but there are another 18 to play. The situation is difficult, but it's not desperate."

Meanwhile, second-from-the-bottom Bayonne sit firmly in the relegation zone with just two wins to their name. Perpignan will fancy their chances having beaten their hosts four out of the last six visits to Stade Jean Dauger.

Prediction: We can't see a fourth loss on the trot for USAP, surely? Perpignan by eight!
Kick-off: 16.15 (14:15 GMT)
Referee: Laurent Cardona




Bordeaux-Bègles v Lyon Olympique

An outbreak of parotiditis, a salivary gland infection, at Lyon has ruled out their trip to face Bordeaux-Begles this weekend.
A statement on Bordeaux's website said that national league bosses had agreed to a request from Lyon to postpone the match "because of an outbreak of parotiditis at Lyon".
The match could be postponed until February 2012 around the start of the Six Nations championship.




Clermont Auvergne vs Biarritz Olympique
Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin, Clermont Ferrand

The tournament leaders take on the basement dwellers when Clermont host Biarritz on Saturday.

Clermont clinched their seventh win in eight matches last weekend to go top of the Top 14.

Biarritz, are surprisingly the tailenders with just one win this season and desperate for their French stars to return to club action after their epic World Cup campaign.

Struggling five-time champions Biarritz sit at the bottom of the Top 14 table, and will need to start winning sooner rather than later in order to get their season back on track.

Ailing giants Biarritz failed to get off the bottom last week as they were held 15-15 at home by Lyon, the Top 14 newboys leading for a large part of the clash before a try by Biarritz's Argentinian World Cup returnee Manuel Carizza in the 61st minute brought them level.

It was the two-time European Cup finalists' second draw of the season from their eight matches ahead of the return of French stars Imanol Harinordoquy, Dimitri Yachvili, Fabien Barcella and Damien Traille.

Prediction: Should be easy pickings for the 2009 champs. Clermont by nine!
Kick-off: 16.15 (14:15 GMT)
Referee: Mathieu Raynal




Stade Toulousain v Stade Français
Stadium de Toulouse

The highlight of the weekend will no doubt be when two of French rugby's traditional rivals go head to head at Stadium de Toulouse on Saturday.

The two teams have played each other 28 times, with Toulouse winning 14 and Stade 13 (and one match drawn). However, Stade Français have recorded just one win out of the last seven encounters between the two sides.

The visitors' record on the road this season hasn't been great - zero wins from their four matches away from home. However, they did at least manage to pick up crucial bonus points in three of them that keep them in the hunt.

Stade Français went down to Agen last weekend, while Toulouse ran in seven tries to beat Bordeaux-Begles 56-6

Prediction: The hosts are in fine form and tough to crack at home. Toulouse by five!
Kick-off: 16.15 (14:15 GMT)
Referee: Christophe Berdos




SU Agen v Montpellier HR
Stade Armandie, Agen

Agen host last year's runners-up Montpellier, with the hosts looking to make it back to back wins in the competition.

Agen - who flirted with relegation last season before assuring their place in the elite in the penultimate match - have been the surprise team this year.

Last week's 37-13 win over Stade Francais saw them enter the unlikely environs of the top six, and will be hoping to stay there with victory over struggling Montpellier.

Last season's beaten finalists lost their fifth game of 2011 after going down to Castres (21-16). And with only two wins a draw to show for their efforts, Montpol will be desperate for a win away from home.

Prediction: Tough one. Montpellier eased past Agen 35-6 last season, but we'll back the home side to cause another upset. Agen by three!
Kick-off: 16.15 (14:15 GMT)
Referee: Pascal Gauzere