Planet Rugby

Top 14 Preview: Round 12

01st December 2011 12:05

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Stade Francais and Racing Metro on the floor

Derby: Stade Français vs Racing

Following the midweek drama of the Basque derby, this Saturday should see on-field action in Paris hot up as Stade Français play host to Racing.

There are most definitely some other intriguing games to go with the action at the Stade de France as Toulouse take on Toulon and Clermont welcome Castres. Biarritz versus Montpellier also excites.

Fixtures:

Friday, December 2
Bordeaux-Begles vs Brive

Saturday, December 3
Toulouse vs Toulon
Clermont Auvergne vs Castres
Stade Français vs Racing Métro

Sunday, December 4
Agen vs Bayonne
Lyon vs Perpignan
Biarritz vs Montpellier

Standings:
1. Toulouse 38
2. Clermont Auvergne 36
3. Castres 33
4. Toulon 30
5. Racing Métro 30
6. Agen 28
7. Stade Français 26
8. Montpellier 22
9. Brive 21
10. Bayonne 20
11. Perpignan 19
12. Bordeaux-Begles 17
13. Biarritz 14
14. Lyon 13


Previews:

Bordeaux-Begles vs Brive
Stade André Moga

The hosts are boosted by the availability of number eight Justin Puril and veteran back-three man Bruce Reihana for their clash with Brive on Friday. Bordeaux know that victory with a bonus-point, combined with denying their visitors anything from Stade André Moga, would see them leap above Brive. However, Brive will have gained confidence from their 9-9 result at home to Top 14 leaders Toulouse last weekend and go into this one as slight favourites. Bordeaux must be wondering how their season has unraveled as after scoring four wins in their opening ten games in the competition, they find themselves near the relegation spots.

Prediction: Brive to sneak it by about 6!
Kick-off: 20:45 (19:45 GMT)


Toulouse vs Toulon
Stadium de Toulouse

This Saturday kicks-off with arguably the fixture of the weekend in France as Toulouse host Toulon, with both outfits expected to roll out their big guns. Toulon's most recent outing was a 22-22 result at third-placed Castres and with a game in hand on their play-off rivals, they will be hungry to make their advantage count at Stade Ernest-Wallon. What can you say about Toulouse's squad though? They are blessed with an unbelievable amount of quality and can pick Yannick Jauzion alongside Florian Fritz or stick with the same midfield duo of last week's draw at Brive, Luke McAlister and Yann David. Enough said. Toulouse to win.

Prediction: Home advantage to see Toulouse win by 8!
Kick-off: 14:05 (13:05 GMT)


Clermont Auvergne vs Castres
Stade Marcel-Michelin

Les Jaunards will be smarting from their loss at Montpellier but cannot feel too upset after falling to a side that is starting to recapture its 2010/11 form that saw them reach the final. Clermont were at full-strength at Stade Yves du Manoir but could rotate this time around, with Morgan Parra, Brock James, Nathan Hines and Benjamin Kayser likely to come in for Kevin Senio, David Skrela, Lois Jacquet and Ti'i Paulo at scrum-half, fly-half, lock and hooker respectively. Meanwhile, the visitors know that if they can condemn Clermont to their second defeat in succession they will leap-frog above them into second. Expect fireworks.

Prediction: Clermont to get back on the horse by 12!
Kick-off: 14:15 (13:15 GMT)


Stade Français vs Racing-Métro
Stade de France

Stade de France is the venue for this mouth-watering derby, the oldest rivalry in the French game.

Stade Français must be feeling good at present after what has been a turbulent year or so in Paris. Victories over Perpignan and Clermont coming either side of their comfortable outings in the Amlin Challenge Cup. Racing will also have a spring in their step following their win over Biarritz last week. This capital derby is set to excite in the backline and non more so than in the thirteen channel where Paul Williams and Henry Chavancy collide.

Prediction: Close one but Stade Français by 3!
Kick-off: 16:15 (15:15 GMT)


Agen vs Bayonne
Stade Armandie, Agen

Bayonne face a very tough trip West less than a week after a hard-fought (in every sense) Basque derby.

Indeed Agen are one of the form teams at the moment having won their last three games. In fact only the top three clubs in the standings have managed to beat les Agenais as we approach the half-way mark of the season.

Agen won this clash 21-3 last year and have better defensive and attacking stats than their visitors.

Prediction: Bayonne have yet to win on the road this year so we'll back the hosts. Agen by seven.
Kick-off: 15.00 (14.00 GMT)


Lyon vs Perpignan
Stade Matmut

Perpignan travel to Lyon for the first time in 17 years desperately searching for form. Winless in six games and coming of another defeat at home (to Stade Français) the Catalans have been unable to turn the ship around since axing manager Jacques Delmas. They have a worst defensive recond in the league.

It all means that Lyon will fancy their chances of picking up the four points that could lift them out of the relegation zone.

Good news for USAP however is the return of stalwart prop Nicolas Mas but they will be without David Marty (suspended) as well as Jean-Philippe Grandclaude and Guillaume Vilacéca, who are both injured.

The hosts will have to rotate their squad following Wednesday's heavy loss to Montpellier

Prediction: It's likely to be close one but considering the visitors' form, we'll stick our necks out and go with LOU. Lyon by a whisker.
Kick-off: 15.00 (14.00 GMT)


Biarritz vs Montpellier
Parc des Sports Aquiléra

A last-minute penalty was enough to see Biarritz edge Bayonne and climb off the bottom of the standings in Tuesday's Basque derby but Sunday could be an even tougher challenge.

Despite the four points, BO did little to convince observers that they are on the right track. A place in Europe looks beyond BO's reach and their focus will now be on avoiding relegation.

In contrast, Montpellier have hit a rich vein of form as illustrated by victory over Clermont last week and Wednesday's demolition of Lyon.

Prediction: Biarritz won this game 30-22 last year, but a repeat looks a big ask. Three games in a week is also a huge task for the visitors though, so we'll take a risk and back Biarritz to edge it!
Kick-off: 17.05 (16.05 GMT)

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