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Top 14 Preview: Round Six

21st September 2012 10:06

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Toulon s David Smith C is tackled by Castres

All square again? Toulon host Castres

Toulon will hope to extend their five-game unbeaten run at home to Castres on Saturday while Biarritz and Perpignan travel to the capital.

The weekend kicks off with a crunch game in Bayonne where the struggling hosts are aiming to get their season back on track against a Toulouse side smarting from a heavy loss last week.

Stade Français, who are flirting with the drop zone, host resurgent Perpignan while Bordeaux-Begles entertain Montpellier and winless Mont-de-Marsan welcome Agen.

Second-placed Clermont will expected victory at home to Grenoble while third-placed Biarritz travel to Paris to face Racing-Metro in the late game.

Fixtures:

Friday, September 21
Bayonne v Toulouse - Read the match preview here

Saturday, September 22
Toulon v Castre
Bordeaux-Bègles v Montpellier
Clermont v Grenoble
Mont-de-Marsan v Agen
Stade Français v Perpignan
Racing Métro v Biarritz

Rugby Union betting odds

Standings:
1 Toulon 22
2 Clermont 18
3 Biarritz 17
4 Castres 15
5 Toulouse 15
6 Grenoble 14
7 Racing-Metro 14
8 Perpignan 11
9 Montpellier 10
10 Bordeaux 9
11 Bayonne 7
12 Stade Francais 6
13 Agen 6
14 Mont-de-Marsan 0

Previews:

RC Toulon v Castres Olympique
Stade Felix Mayol, Toulon

Riding a wave of confidence thanks to a perfect record so far in a remarkable start to the season, Toulon will want to maintain their momentum in just their second home game this term.

With a rematch of last season's final against Toulouse on the menu for next week, RCT will be given a stern test by a Castres side that earned a rare draw at Stade Mayol last year.

Indeed both of last season's clashes between these sides ended on level terms. CO will also take heart from the fact that they have lost just twice in their last seven visits to Toulon. Ending Biarritz's unbeaten run last week provided confirmation that Castres are in solid form.

Toulon number eight Chris Masoe is set face his former side. The home team are also likely to send out a starting half-back pairing of Frederic Michalak and Jonny Wilkinson for the first time. Wilkinson and fellow Englishman Delon Armitage return to the squad after sitting out last week's win in Montpellier.

For the visitors, lock Rodrigo Capo-Ortega returns but Mathias Roland, Ibrahim Diarra, Daniel Kirkpatrick and Max Evans are amongst the absentees due to injury. Romain Teulet is being rested.

Results last season: 25-25 draw in Toulon; 22-22 draw in Castres
Prediction: RCT are in great form. Toulon by nine points
Kick-off: 15.00 (13.00 GMT)
Referee: Patrick Péchambert


Union Bordeaux-Bègles v Montpellier HR
Stade André Moga, Bègles

Bordeaux-Bègles will be in confident mood after a convincing win over Stade Français last week and will fancy their chances against a Montpellier side that have yet to win on the road this year.

Despite going down at home to Toulon last week, Montpellier will take positives out of the second half, when they outplayed and outscored the league leaders.

With a little more patience and better finishing, Fabien Galthié's team are capable of beating most teams.

UBB welcome back Lachie Munro while Montpellier are bolstered by the return of Pumas prop Maximiliano Bustos.

Results last season: Montpellier won 30-26 in Bordeaux; Bordeaux won 20-16 in Montpellier
Prediction: UBB coach Raphaël Ibanez has called on the home crowd to make themselves heard. It might just work. Bordeaux-Begles by three or four points
Kick-off: 18.30 (16.30 GMT)
Referee: Jérôme Garcès


ASM Clermont Auvergne v FC Grenoble
Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin, Clermont Ferrand

Clermont climbed up to second place in the standings last week, but left it very late to get the better of Mont-de-Marsan.

Les Jaunards are still far from their best but at home, where they have not lost in three years, they're a safe bet for four points.

Grenoble have been the surprise of the season so far but a loss in Agen last week highlighted their limitations.

Wales full-back Lee Byrne and Georgia prop Davit Zirakashvili are both injury absentees for Clermont. Byrne sustained a twisted ankle and Zirakashvili injured his ribs last weekend.

Clermont are, however, boosted by the return from injury of hooker Benjamin Kayser, ex-All Black winger Sitiveni Sivivatu, Scotland lock Nathan Hines and full-back Anthony Floch.

Previous results: Clermont won 31-17 in 2005
Prediction: Clermont at home? Clermont by at least fifteen points
Kick-off: 18.30 (16.30 GMT)
Referee: Salem Attalah


Stade Montois v SU Agen
Stade Guy Boniface, Mont-de-Marsan

It's crunch time as the bottom two clubs face off.

Not much has gone right for Mont-de-Marsan, who came with ten minutes of claiming their first points last week only to wilt under the pressure from Clermont at the death and be left empty handed.

But after a series of games against heavyweight opponents, les Montois finally have a realistic chance to bag a victory.

Agen, who got their first win last week against Grenoble, will know this a chance to climb out of the relegation zone. Philippe Sella's team will be out to build on last week's performance in game that could be pivotal for the rest of their season.

Previous results: Mont-de-Marsan won 18-12 at home in 2010 (ProD2)
Prediction: Mont-de-Marsan have played much better rugby than their situation on table suggests. Mont-de-Marsan by six points
Kick-off: 18.30 (16.30 GMT)
Referee: Mathieu Raynal


Stade Français v USA Perpignan
Stade Charléty, Paris

Perpignan started the season in uneasy fashion but will head to capital feeling reassured after completely dominating Toulouse in their gala clash in Barcelona last week.

The Catalans still have some serious issues at scrum time due to a spate of injuries but played some exciting rugby in Spain.

Stade Français, by contrast, are on the verge of crisis. With just one win so far this season, another defeat could drop the Parisians into the relegation zone, a far cry from the ambitions presented by new boss Richard Pool-Jones at the start of the season.

The hosts will also be worried by USAP's record in the capital, where they have lost just once in five years.

Stade Français have been struck by injuries with scrum-half Julien Dupuy ruled out for three weeks while lock Gerhard Mostert is set to an eight-week layoff after shoulder surgery.

Results last season: Stade Français won both games: 35-31 at home and 35-16 in Perignan
Prediction: Things are not going well for Stade Français. Perpignan by five points
Kick-off: 18.30 (16.30 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite


Racing-Métro 92 v Biarritz Olympique
Stade Yves Du Manoir - Colombes (Paris)

Racing-Métro confirmed their strong early-season form with their second win on the road, in Bayonne, last week. Les Franciliens, now seventh, are growing into a very attractive style under their new coaching staff and have not been justly rewarded for their efforts.

Gonzalo Quesada's team will face a stern test of their game plan this weekend though against a Biarritz side in a rich vein of form. BO conceded their first defeat last week but will be desperate to regain forward momentum eights days ahead of the all-important Basque derby.

Biarritz have not enjoyed their recent trips to Colombes though, having lost on all three visits there since Racing's return to the top division.

The home side are struggling with a few injuries however (Wisniewski , Dambielle, Tuugahala, Vulivuli, Leo'o and Descons ) and will be eagerly awaiting the arrival of new signing Olly Barkley in a fortnight.

Biarritz will be without veteran lock Jérôme Thion, who has an Achilles tendon injury. Raphaël Lakafia leads the side while internationals Wenceslas Lauret, Iain Balshaw and Damien Traille ride the bench.

Biarritz: Haylett-Petty, Baby, Gimenez, Burotu, Brew, Peyrelongue, Lesgourgues, Lakafia (cap), Guyot, M.Lund, Taele, E.Lund, Broster, Heguy, Blaauw
Replacements: Genevois, Barcella, Dubarry, Lauret, Traille, Ngwenya, Balshaw, Gomez Kodela

Results last season: Racing 28-9 at home; Biarritz won 22-13 at home
Prediction: Racing have looked good so far. Racing by seven points
Kick-off: 20.40 (18.40 GMT)
Referee: Laurent Cardona

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