Top 14 Preview: Round One

17th Aug 2012, 21:55

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Here we go again! Toulouse kick off against Castres

Here we go again! Toulouse kick off against Castres

Defending champions Toulouse kick off the Top 14 season at home to Castres on Friday, before Toulon end the weekend in Perpignan.

Defending champions Toulouse kick off the new Top 14 season at home to Castres on Friday, before Toulon finish off the weekend in Perpignan.

Stade Français, under a new coaching team and harbouring fresh ambitions, host a Montpellier side missing six Argentina internationals who are on duty in South Africa.

New boys Mont-de-Marsan and Grenoble are both on the road with les Montois in for a tough start against Biarritz while ProD2 champs Grenoble renew their rivalry with Bordeaux-Begles.

Clermont face a tricky trip to Bayonne where kick-off has been delayed due to the scorching temperatures while Racing Metro are without four Pumas as they head to Agen, who are already struggling with injuries.

Former Chiefs prop Sona Taumalolo is set to make his debut for Perpignan in the Mediterranean derby with Toulon, who are at near full-strength but have left Frédéric Michalak at home.

Fixtures:

Friday, August 17

Toulouse v Castres

Saturday, August 18

Bayonne v Clermont
Agen v Racing Metro
Biarritz v Mont-de-Marsan
Bordeaux-Begles v Grenoble
Stade Français v Montpellier
Perpignan v Toulon

Rugby Union betting odds

Previews:

Stade Toulousain v Castres Olympique
Stade Ernest Wallon, Toulouse

Castres travel to the near neighbours with zero pressure. No one expects the visitors to win: in 11 trips to fortress Ernest-Wallon, CO have never claimed victory.

It's only the second time since 2004 that Toulouse will start their campaign at home, yet they have still won five of their last eight Day One fixtures.

Castres will however be in confident mood having won both their pre-season friendlies, including a win over Glasgow.

The likes of France international backs Yannick Jauzion (heel), Yann David (groin) and Maxime Medard (knee) will be missing from the Toulouse team, as well as Nicolas Vergallo and Patricio Albacete, who will be competing for Argentina in the Rugby Championship.

Yoann Huget makes his first appearance since returning from Bayonne while monster Tongan youngster Edwin Maka features on the bench.

Marcel Garvey and Brice Dulin make their debuts in the Castres backline but former Ulster hardman Pedrie Wannenburg is on the bench.

Toulouse: 15 Clement Poitrenaud, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Florian Fritz, 12 Luke McAlister, 11 Vincent Clerc, 10 Lionel Beauxis, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Thierry Dusautoir, 6 Jean Bouilhou, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Gregory Lamboley, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Gary Botha, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp.
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Jean-Batiste Poux, 18 Edwin Maka, 19 Yannick Nyanga, 20 Jean-Marc Doussain, 21 Gael Fickou, 22 Timoci Matanavou, 23 Yohan Montes.

Castres: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Romain Martial, 13 Paul Bonnefond, 12 Romain Cabannes, 11 Marcel Garvey, 10 Remi Tales, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Antonie Claassen, 7 Yannick Caballero, 6 Ibrahim Diarra, 5 Iosefa Tekori, 4 Matthias Rolland, 3 Karena Wihongi, 2 Marc Antoine Rallier, 1 Saimone Taumoepeau.
Replacements: 16 Mathieu Bonello, 17 Mihaita Lazar, 18 Christophe Samson, 19 Pedrie Wannenburg, 20 Romain Teulet, 21 Pierre Bernard, 22 Seremaia Bai, 23 Michael Coetzee.

Prediction: The history books point to only one result. Toulouse by ten points.
Kick-off: 21.00 (19.00 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite




Aviron Bayonnais v ASM Clermont Auvergne
Stade Jean Dauger, Bayonne

This was supposed to be the opening fixture on Saturday but kick-off has been moved from 15.00 to 19.00 due to the blazing heat in the Basque country.

Bayonne have been dealt a very tough start to the season but will do well to draw inspiration from their opening day victory against Toulouse last year.

The Basques battled to draw against Clermont in the closing stages a torrid season last time out, a result that well a long way to save them from relegation.

Bayonne will have greater ambitions this time as a lot of money has been invested in their squad.

Returning try-machine Napolioni Nalaga has only just arrived from Down Under so is not in the Clermont squad but Benson Stanley and Damien Chouly should make their debuts. Aurelien Rougerie is doubtful while Thomas Domigo has been rested.

New Bayonne coaches Christian Lanta and Christophe Deylaud have named a squad without any real surprises. Fijian centre Gaby Lovobalavu should make his debut but wing Marvin O'Connor and fly-half Benjamin Boyet are injured.

Results last season 22-22 draw in Bayonne; Clermont won 19-13 at home.
Prediction: It's hard to bet against Clermont, even away from home. Clermont by a whisker.
Kick-off:19.00 (17.00 GMT)
Referee: Mathieu Raynal




SU Agen v Racing-Métro 92
Stade Armandie, Agen

New Agen boss Philippe Sella starts a new era at the club with a difficult game against a Parisian side with title ambitions.

Agen have won their last three home games against Racing although it has been a close affair on each occasion: 25-22 in 2012 and 21-20 in 2010.

Agen are missing no less than seven injured players but former Toulon and Sharks lock Ross Skeate will make his debut alongside Esteban Lozada.

Racing are without four Pumas (Hernandez, Imhoff, Galindo and Orlandi) as well as a handful of injured players including Andrea Lo Cicero and Jone Qovu.

Results last season: Agen won 25-22 at home; Racing won 26-8 at home.
Prediction: Tough to call considering all the absentees, but we'll go with the hosts. Agen by five points.
Kick-off: 18.30 (16.30 GMT)
Referee: Laurent Cardona




Biarritz Olympique v Stade Montois
Parc des Sports d'Aguilera, Biarritz

Amlin Challenege Cup champions Biarritz will want to forget their last domestic season as quickly as possible and a home game against their west-coast rivals offers a perfect opportunity to get off to a winning start.

Biarritz won both the previous meetings between these sides by at least 27 points.

With clashes against Toulouse and Toulon next on the menu, Mont-de-Marsan have been handed the hardest start to the campaign imaginable.

With no World Cup to disrupt their team, Biarritz will expect a solid win but will start the season without Dimitri Yachvili, who had minor surgery in the off-season. Imanol Harinordoquy is also out a knee injury.

Previous results:Biarritz won 33-6 and 37-7 in 2008-2009.
Prediction: It should be an easy one to call. Biarritz by 15 points.
Kick-off: 18.30 (16.30 GMT)
Referee: Jean-Pierre Matheu




Union Bordeaux-Bègles v FC Grenoble
Stade André Moga, Bègles

Grenoble start their first season in the top