Planet Rugby

Preview: Perpignan v Stade Français

25th April 2013 11:57

Share:

Stade Francais hooker Aled De Malmanche C is tackeld by Perpignan

All-French semi-final: Perpignan host Stade Français

Friday's Challenge Cup semi-final on the Catalan coast offers two of France's misfiring heavyweights a chance to salvage their season.

Attractive as the silverware on offer in Dublin on May 7 is, the main carrot for both these sides is the berth in the Heineken Cup next season that comes with the Challenge Cup title, since neither has managed to crack a spot in the French top six this year. Both are former runners-up in the Heineken Cup and regard Europe's top flight as their rightful place.

Both have had a tough time of it in recent years, but both are also showing signs of resurgence.

It's been ten years since Perpignan contested a European final and not much has gone right domestically for the Catalans since their French-title winning campaign in 2009. They have however secured seventh spot in the Top 14 this season due mainly to re-establishing Stade Aime Giral a fortress once again. Only Toulon and Castres have managed to scrape results there.

In Europe, Perpignan have a formidable record at the 'Bull Ring' where they have lost just once in their last 32 encounters spanning almost a decade. More than 14,000 fans will be on hand on Friday to create the infamously hostile atmosphere.

"The crowd here are incredible and playing at home will be a big factor," said Perpignan fly-half James Hook.

"I came here with the Ospreys in 2009. It was a pretty special experience and one of the reasons I signed with Perpignan.

"It will be pretty daunting but it's also something you look forward to as a visiting player," added the Welsh international.

Perpignan have already inflicted defeat on their Parisian visitors at Stade Aime Giral this season with a 32-16 Top 14 victory in February but honours are even between the rivals with Stade also winning their home tie.

Stade Français are making their third successive appearance in the Challenge Cup semi-finals, they reached the final in 2011 but lost at this stage last year.

Stade have failed to qualify for the Heineken Cup in the last four seasons but their impressive win in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals - when they ran four tries past Bath to win 36-20 at the Rec - is proof they are still a force to be reckoned with.

That result however belies their dreadful form on the road in domestic competition, where victory outside of Paris has become a rarity.

Both teams were impressive in the quarter finals, Perpignan out-muscling Toulouse 30-19 while Stade Français cruised past Bath. While Perpignan lost with a below-strength team in Agen last weekend, Stade Français were given a massive confidence boost with victory over Racing Metro in the Paris derby at the Stade de France.

Perpignan have won just one of their last four games in the Top 14 while Stade bounced back from heavy defeats to Toulouse and Toulon to be beat Agen and Racing.

It's set to be a good attacking spectacle. Stade Français have averaged 35 points per match in the tournament this season. Perpignan have averaged a gain of 606 metres per match in the tournament this season, higher than any other club left in either ERC competition.

Perpignan have made three changes to the side that beat Biarritz in their last home game. French international centre David Marty starts at 13, moving Lifeimi Mafi to inside centre. Luke Narraway returns to the back row while Dan Leo joins the second row in the absence of Sébastien Vahaamahina.

Meanwhile, Stade have almost completely overhauled the side that beat Racing last week, making 13 changes. Young Jules Plisson starts at fly-half ahead of Felipe Contepomi, who has been dropped while Julien Dupuy takes over at scrum half.

Players to watch:

For Perpignan: Perpignan rested Wales star James Hook - who has scored 39 points in five tournament appearances, including 15 in the quarter-final victory over Toulouse - last week in anticipation of this all-important clash. Beyond USAP's ambitions, Friday provides the last chance for Hook to convince Warren Gatland that he is worthy of a place on the British and Irish Lions tour of Australia.

For Stade Français: 22-year-old Jules Plisson has been handed the fly-half berth, despite Felipe Contepomi's heroics last week. Many rate Plisson as the next great French fly-half but he still lacks experience in high-pressure situations. This may be one.

Head-to-head: The battle of the looseheads will have a souther hemisphere flavour as former Chiefs team-mates Aled de Malmanche and Sona Taumalolo face off.

Prediction: Perpignan's home record in Europe is very impressive while Stade Français have struggled outside of the French capital over the last few years. Perpignan by six points

The teams:

Perpignan: 15 Gavin Hume, 14 Farid Sid, 13 David Marty, 12 Lifeimi Mafi, 11 Adrien Plante, 10 James Hook, 9 Florian Cazenave, 8 Henry Tuilagi, 7 Luke Narraway, 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Dan Leo, 3 Kisi Pulu, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Sona Taumalolo.
Replacements: 16 Romain Terrain, 17 Sebastien Taofifenua, 18 Jerome Schuster, 19 Guillaume Vilaceca, 20 David Mele, 21 Sione Piukala, 22 Joffrey Michel, 23 Bertrand Guiry.

Stade Français: 15 Jerome Porical, 14 Jérémy Sinzelle, 13 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 12 Paul Williams, 11 Hugo Bonneval, 10 Jules Plisson, 9 Julien Dupuy, 8 Sergio Parisse , 7 Pierre Rabadan, 6 David Lyons, 5 Scott Lavalla, 4 Gerhard Mostert, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Laurent Sempere, 1 Aled de Malmanche.
Replacements: 16 Remi Bonfils, 17 Stanley Wright, 18 Jérémy Becasseau, 19 Anton van Zyl, 20 Antoine Burban, 21 Nicolas Bezy, 22 Paul Warwick, 23 Julien Arias,

Date: Friday, April 26
Venue: Stade Aimé Giral, Perpignan
Kick-off: 21.00 (19.00 GMT)
Referee: George Clancy

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
International Match
Saturday , November 1
Barbarians vs AustraliaBarbarians vs Australia Preview
USA vs New ZealandUSA vs New Zealand Preview
More International Match fixtures
LV= Cup
Saturday , November 1
Sale Sharks vs Wasps14:00
Exeter vs Gloucester15:00
Bath vs London Welsh15:00
London Irish vs Leicester15:00
Northampton vs Newcastle16:00
Sunday , November 2
Saracens vs Harlequins13:00
More LV= Cup fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , October 31
Leinster vs EdinburghLeinster vs Edinburgh Preview
Glasgow vs Benetton TrevisoGlasgow vs Benetton Treviso Preview
Ospreys vs ConnachtOspreys vs Connacht Preview
Saturday , November 1
Cardiff Blues vs Munster17:15
Scarlets vs Zebre18:00
Ulster vs Newport Gwent D'gons19:35
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , November 1
Lyon vs Toulouse13:45
Racing Metro Paris vs Oyonnax18:30
Stade Francais vs Bordeaux-Begles18:30
La Rochelle vs Montpellier18:30
Brive vs Castres18:30
Bayonne vs Clermont Auvergne20:45
Sunday , November 2
Toulon vs Grenoble13:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sunday , October 26
Castres 16 - 21 LeinsterCastres vs Leinster Report
Clermont Auvergne 35 - 3 Sale SharksClermont Auvergne vs Sale Sharks Report
Benetton Treviso 10 - 26 Racing Metro 92
Wasps 16 - 23 HarlequinsWasps vs Harlequins Report
Saturday , October 25
Ulster 13 - 23 ToulonUlster vs Toulon Report
Bath 19 - 21 ToulouseBath vs Toulouse Report
Montpellier 13 - 15 GlasgowMontpellier vs Glasgow Report
Northampton 34 - 6 OspreysNorthampton vs Ospreys Report
Scarlets 15 - 3 LeicesterScarlets vs Leicester Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Rovigo 18 - 33 Cardiff Blues
Exeter 33 - 13 Connacht
Bucuresti 9 - 13 Stade Francais
Oyonnax 15 - 25 Gloucester
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
Currie Cup
Western Province 19 - 16 LionsWestern Province vs Lions Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Taranaki 36 - 32 TasmanTaranaki vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Friday , October 24
Munster 14 - 3 SaracensMunster vs Saracens Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
European Rugby Challenge Cup
Grenoble 15 - 25 London Irish
Edinburgh 25 - 17 LOU Rugby
Newport Gwent D'gons 26 - 30 Newcastle
Brive 21 - 26 Zebre
La Rochelle 25 - 13 Bayonne
Thursday , October 23
London Welsh 20 - 52 Bordeaux-BeglesLondon Welsh vs Bordeaux-Begles Report
More European Rugby Challenge Cup results
European Rugby Champions Cup
Sunday , October 19
Ospreys 42 - 7 Benetton TrevisoOspreys vs Benetton Treviso Report
Toulouse 30 - 23 MontpellierToulouse vs Montpellier Report
Leinster 25 - 20 WaspsLeinster vs Wasps Report
More European Rugby Champions Cup results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Northampton625
2Saracens622
3Exeter620
4Bath620
5Wasps615