Planet Rugby

Top 14 Preview: Round 18

15th February 2013 11:23

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bakkies botha toulon v Montpellier

Another rematch: Toulon and Montepllier face off ofr the fourth time this season

Top 14 leaders Toulon will try to get back on the horse after last week's shock loss when they face a familiar foe in the form of Montpellier.

RCT's drubbing at the hands of Bordeaux-Bègles was the biggest upset of the year so far and bouncing back will not be an easy task against a Monpellier side that beat them convincingly in the Heineken Cup last month.

Clermont are also looking to get back to winning ways after consecutive defeats but they shouldn't have too many problems at home to lowly Mont-de-Marsan.

Agen are trying to get out of the relegation zone and will look to follow up their win over Toulouse last week on the road to Grenoble.

In the capital, Racing Métro and Stade Français are aiming to claw their way into the play-off spots at home to Bayonne and Bordeaux-Bègles respectively.

In the late game, Biarritz are under pressure to come up with a result against fourth-placed Castres.

Fixtures:

Friday, February 15
Toulouse v Perpignan - Preview here

Saturday, February 16
Toulon v Montpellier
Clermont v Mont-de-Marsan
Grenoble v Agen
Stade Français v Bordeaux-Bègles
Racing Métro v Bayonne
Biarritz v Castres

Rugby Union betting odds

Standings:
1 Toulon 61
2 Clermont 55
3 Toulouse 54
4 Castres 49
5 Montpellier 49
6 Grenoble 42
7 Racing Metro 42
8 Perpignan 39
9 Stade Francais 37
10 Biarritz 37
11 Bayonne 34
12 Bordeaux-Begles 24
13 Agen 23
14 Mont de Marsan 14


Rugby Club Toulonnais v Montpellier Hérault Rugby
Stade Felix Mayol, Toulon

Saturday kicks-off with potentially the biggest game of the round as Toulon look to reassure their fans, and themselves, after last week's catastrophe in Bordeaux.

Questions also continue to hover over the contracts of coach Bernard Laporte's assistants Olivier Azam and Pierre Mignoni as well as 33-year-old fly-half Jonny Wilkinson, who is expected to make a decision soon over his playing future.

"I know 13 clubs who would love to be in our position," said Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal, pointing to his team's position at the top of the table and a looming European Cup quarter-final against Leicester.

A clash against Montpellier will be far from an easy task however considering the scoreline when these team last met, a 20-point win to les Héraultais. Saturday's hosts must be feeling uneasy.

Montpellier have yet to win in Toulon since the latter's return to the top division, but will arrive with plenty of confidence having claimed three wins on the road this season (at Agen, Bordeaux-Bègles, Racing Metro)

Toulon welcome back scrum-half Sébastien Tillous-Borde after an eight-week absence. Full-back Benjamin Lapeyre is also in the extended squad.

Maxime Mermoz, who was released by the French national side, will not play due to a stomach bug.

Previous result: Montpellier won 23-3 (Heineken Cup)
Prediction: Toulon won 32-25 in Montpellier but we reckon there will be far less scoring this time around. Toulon by six points
Kick-off: 15.00 (14.00 GMT)
Referee: J. Garcès


ASM Clermont v Mont-de-Marsan
Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin, Clermont Ferrand

The biggest news to come out of Clermont this week is that Australian fly-half Brock James has been granted French citizenship. He does not however qualify for France having been capped for Australia in Sevens and at U21 level.

A losing bonus point against Racing last week was enough for Clermont to reclaim second place in the standings, but this week they'll expect a bonus point for scoring tries against the worst defence in the league at fortress Marcel Michelin.

Mont-de-Marsan bagged a morale-boosting win over Grenoble last week, but no one expects them to end Clermont's three-year unbeaten streak on home soil.

Previous result: Clermont win 14-6
Prediction: No mystery here. Clermont to win with a bonus point
Kick-off: 18:30 (17.30.GMT)
Referee: J. Rebollal


FC Grenoble v SU Agen
Stade Lesdiguières, Grenoble

Grenoble have not lost on home soil since May 2011! Les Isérois need to keep that record intact if they hope to hang onto their play-off berth with Racing Metro and Perpignan breathing down their necks.

Grenoble's record against Agen isn't great however, having won just once in their last five clashes.

Still stuck in the relegation zone, SUA have claimed just a single win on the road this season but will be bubbling with confidence after beating Toulouse last week.

Previous result: Agen won 32-26
Prediction: Grenoble's home record is hard to bet against. Grenoble by seven points
Kick-off: 18:30 (17.30.GMT)
Referee: A. Ruiz


Stade Français Paris v Union Bordeaux-Bègles
Stade Charléty, Paris

Can Bordeaux-Bègles follow up last week's shock win with another upset in Paris? It's a big ask against a Stade Français team that has a very good record at home.

Les Bordelo-Bèglais have yet to win away to Stade Français since their return to the Top 14 and have only claimed one win on the road this season (against Mont de Marsan).

UBB will be without prop Patrick Toetu, who has been handed a 30-day ban for his fisticuffs against Racing Metro in January.

Previous result: Bordeaux won 30-22
Prediction: The Parisians are pretty solid at home.Stade Français by six points
Kick-off: 18:30 (17.30.GMT)
Referee: L. Cardona


Racing Métro 92 v Aviron Bayonnais
Stade Yves Du Manoir - Colombes (Paris)

Racing Métro seem to be on an upward curve having shaken off the inconsistent form that plagued them in the early season and are now on the verge of breaking into the play-off spots thanks to four consecutive wins.

Bayonne are also experiencing somewhat of a revival, as illustrated by their win over Perpignan last week. But les Bayonnais have not won in Colombes since Racing's return to the top flight.

Racing welcome back French international centre Fabrice Estebanez from suspension.

Bayonne meanwhile will be without injured flank Jean-Jo Marmouyet for the rest of the season.

Previous result: Racing won 25-18
Prediction: Racing should do the double over their Basque visitors. Racing by eight points
Kick-off: 18:30 (17.30.GMT)
Referee: C. Marchat


Biarritz Olympique v Castres Olympique
Parc des Sports d'Aguilera, Biarritz

Biarritz are running out of time and need to register a big result to get back into the race for the play-offs. Bad news for BO fans is that Castres have claimed two wins and a draw from their last three visits to the Aguilera.

Castres ended a three-game losing streak with victory over Stade Français last week to leave them level with Montpellier in fourth place.

Castres welcome back lock Rodrigo Capo Ortega but still have a long injury list. Joe Tekori, Brice Dulin Marc Andreu and Pedrie Wannenburg are all missing.

French international Yannick Forestier and Mathieu Bonello have been rested.

Previous result: Castres won 28-13
Prediction: A tough one to call but considering Castres' injury list, we'll go with the home side. Biarritz to edge it
Kick-off: 20.45 (19.45 GMT)
Referee: J. Matheu

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