Planet Rugby

Top 14 Preview: Round 16

03rd January 2014 11:56

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Shackled: Wesley Fofana

Sunday's game between Toulouse and league leaders Clermont is the pick of the bunch from Round 16 of the Top 14.

Toulon will look to get back to winning ways at home against Grenoble, while lowly Biarritz host second placed Stade Français.

Oyonnax will look to climb back out of the relegation spots when they host Racing Métro, with Bayonne looking to follow up their win over Toulouse when they travel to Perpignan.

Fixtures:

Friday, January 3

Castres v Bordeaux-Bègles

Saturday, January 4

Toulon v Grenoble
Perpignan v Bayonne
Biarritz v Stade Français
Oyonnax v Racing Métro
Brive v Montpellier

Sunday, January 5

Toulouse v Clermont

Previews:

Castres v Bordeaux-Bègles
Stade Pierre-Antoine

The champions arrive into Round 16 on the back of an away loss to Grenoble and finding themselves tucked into third place in the group chasing Clermont.

Rory Kockott remains absent but France full-back Brice Dulin returns to the back three, moving Geoffrey Palis to the wing.

For Bordeaux-Bègles, Argentina fly-half Nicolás Sanchez returns in place of Pierre Bernard, with Thierry Lacroix at inside centre to partner Felix Le Bourhis. A whole new front row also starts with Laurent Delboulbes, Clement Maynadier and Benjamin Sa coming in.

The visitors currently sit six points clear of relegation and snuck past Brive in Round 15.

Previous result this season: Bordeaux-Bègles won 21-20
Kick-off: 20:45 local (19:45 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite
Assistant referees: Cyril Lafon, Jacques De Lemos
Television match official: Philippe Bonhoure


Toulon v Grenoble
Stade Felix Mayol

Only mustering three points on their trip to Paris last weekend to play Racing Métro, Toulon lost ground against their rivals at the top of the table.

Toulon's sixth loss of the season saw them slip to fourth place with Toulouse and Montpellier on their tail for the final playoff spot.

Grenoble's win over Castres was their eighth of the season, for whom scrum-half James Hart has been an inspirational presence of late.

Benjamin Thiery moves to full-back with Fabien Gengenbacher, Saturday's captain, in at fly-half for Blair Stewart.

Previous result this season: Grenoble 28-26
Kick-off: 14:55 local (13:55 GMT)
Referee: Laurent Cardona
Assistant referees: Mourad Zitouni, Christophe Malterre
Television match official: Jean-Marie Piraveau


Perpignan v Bayonne
Stade Aimé Giral

USAP will definitely be without Tommaso Benvenuti (ankle) and Giorgi Jgenti (wrist) but welcome back the trio of Bertrand Guiry, Sione Piukala and Richard Haughton.

Perpignan have been sucked into the mire of late, stuck on 31 points along with Brive only two points clear of the relegation places.

A losing bonus point against high-flying Stade Français could prove very valuable moving forward.

Bayonne currently sit 12th and just one point above the drop zone following their surprising win at home over Toulouse.

A crucial four points that lifted the Basque side above Oyonnax, Bayonne are still in trouble but have the boots of Martin Bustos Moyano and Stephen Brett in their armoury.

Previous result this season: Bayonne won 31-20
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Patrick Pechambert
Assistant referees: Salem Attalah, Thierry Le Grand
Television match official: Bruno Bessot


Biarritz v Stade Français
Parc des Sports Aguiléra

The struggles of the 2010 Heineken Cup finalists continues. Biarritz's total of 17 points at the bottom of the league means they are 13 points adrift of safety.

Their latest shambles was a six-try thumping received from Montpellier, even though they mustered three tries through Erik Lund, Taku Ngewnya and Joe Pietersen.

Perhaps Biarritz's season is best summed up by their eye-watering points difference of -180.

Stade on the other hand are on a fine run and saw off Perpignan last weekend to secure second spot in the Top 14 for now.

Jules Plisson continues to keep Morné Steyn on the bench and should score plenty of points in this one.

Previous result this season: Stade won 38-3
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Pascal Gauzère
Assistant referees: Nicolas Datas, Stéphane Pomarède
Television match official: Bernard Dal Maso


Oyonnax v Racing Métro
Stade Charles-Mathon

Benjamin Urdapilleta's hamstring injury is a major blow for Top 14 newcomers Oyonnax, who have relied on the Argentinian's trusty boot to secure a number of key wins at home.

Now Urdapilleta is out for eight weeks with a hamstring injury, putting the onus on Regis Lespinas to step in.

A spirited effort against Clermont ultimately wasn't enough and meant Oyonnax slipped back into the second relegation spot.

Racing's season hasn't quite gone as predicted considering their notable investment, slipping to eighth in the league.

Their win over Toulon was important, but Racing have also scored the second fewest points in the league with 236.

Previous result this season: Racing won 22-9
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Jérôme Garcès
Assistant referees: Christophe Mallet, Laurent Breil
Television match official: Daniel Irazoqui


Brive v Montpellier
Stade Amédée-Domenech

18 points from Gaetan Germain weren't enough for Brive to win against Bordeaux-Bègles.

As a result Brive remain right in the relegation battle alongside Perpignan, Bayonne and Oyonnax.

Montpellier had little sympathy for Biarritz and their 48-22 win was the biggest of Round 15, keeping them in the hunt for the playoffs.

Giants back-rowers Alex Tulou and Mamuka Gorgodze both grabbed braces against Biarritz and that kind of power could prove to be crucial away at Brive.

Previous result this season: Montpellier 33-24
Kick-off: 20:35 local (19:35 GMT)
Referee: Cédric Marchat
Assistant referees: Sébastien Clouté, Patrick Beuriot
Television match official: Eric Gonthier


Toulouse v Clermont
Stade Ernest-Wallon

Sunday night's blockbuster looks set to be a classic as league leaders Clermont visit Toulouse.

With their home run at the Stade Marcel-Michelin now up to 70 consecutive wins Clermont are now favourites for the title thanks to their six-point lead at th top.

The only team to score more than 400 points this season in the league with 442, Clermont's attacking game has been outstanding in recent weeks with Brock James and Mike Delany running the show in the absence of Morgan Parra.

Another away defeat for Toulouse, this time against Bayonne, came despite a 13-8 lead at half-time before Guy Novès' side failed to score any points in the second half.

Games like that one away at Bayonne should be comfortable for Toulouse, not slip ups. Sunday's game is a huge chance to make up some ground.

Previous result this season: Clermont 38-19
Kick-off: 20:45 local (19:45 GMT)
Referee: Christophe Berdos
Assistant referees: Jérôme Lamirand, Laurent Sclafer
Television match official: Vincent Azoulay

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