Planet Rugby

Top 14 Preview: Round 25

17th April 2014 18:29

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Clermont s French hooker Benoit Cabello scores v Racing

Rematch: Clermont face Racing for the fourth time this season

With just two rounds of the regular season remaining, the race for the Top 14 play-offs remains wide open.

In this most competitive and surprising of Top 14 seasons, only Montpellier have so far secured a play-off berth, although Clermont and European champions Toulon both need only a losing bonus point to take their places.

Racing are making a late charge for a home play-off while Toulon and Clermont must juggle their priorities a week before their European Cup semi-finals.

Toulouse are under pressure to produce the goods on the road as they visit as an Oyonnax side fighting for survival.

There is a four-way battle to avoid joining Biarritz in the second tier next season with Perpignan's clash with Toulon in Barcelona grabbing the headlines while Grenoble and Bayonne go head to head.

This weekend is all about the play-off permutations with even ninth-placed Brive, who travel to already-relegated Biarritz, also still in with a mathematical chance of making the cut off.

Fixtures:

Friday, April 18
Castres v Montpellier

Saturday, April 19
Oyonnax v Toulouse
Perpignan v Toulon
Biarritz v Brive
Grenoble v Bayonne
Racing Métro v Clermont
Stade Français v Bordeaux-Bègles

Standings: - Remaining fixtures
1. Montpellier 70 - Castres (a); Racing (h)
2. Toulon 69 - Perpignan (a); Stade Français (h)
3. Clermont 69 - Racing (a); Perpignan (h)
4. Racing Metro 65 - Clermont (h); Montpellier (a)
5. Toulouse 62 - Oyonnax (a); Grenoble (h)
6. Castres 62 - Montpellier (h); Bayonne (a)
7. Bordeaux-Begles 59 - Stade Français (a); Biarritz (h)
8. Stade Francais 59 - Bordeaux (h); Toulon (a)
9. Brive 56 - Biarritz (a); Oyonnax (h)
10. Grenoble 51 - Bayonne (h); Toulouse (a)
11. Perpignan 50 - Toulon (h); Clermont (a)
12. Bayonne 48 - Grenoble (a); Castres (h)
13. Oyonnax 48 - Toulouse (h); Grenoble (a)
14. Biarritz 26 - Brive (h); Bordeaux (a)


US Oyonnax v Stade Toulousain
Stade Charles-Mathon, Oyonnax

The stakes are huge for both clubs as Toulouse are under pressure to make the play-offs while Oyonnax are fighting for survival. The game has been a sold out for weeks as Toulouse aim to succeed where Clermont, Castres and Toulon have failed.

Toulouse must win, preferably with a bonus point, if they are to save what has been their worst season in many years. Poor form on the road has been the root cause, with a scrappy win in Biarritz their only domestic success away from home this term.

But les Toulousains certainly are capable of producing the goods when it really counts, as shown by their victory over Saracens at Wembley in the Heineken Cup, so expect les rouge et noirs to come out firing.

There is set to be a peculier confrontation bewteen the front rows as 22-year-old tighthead Antoine Guillamon lines up for Oyonnax having been loaned from Toulouse earlier this season. Toulouse boss Guy Novés has confirmed that no clause exists that prevents Guillamon from playing against his former team-mates.

Remaining fixture for Oyonnax: v Brive (away)
Remaining fixture for Toulouse: v Grenoble (home)

Result in Round 12: Toulouse won 14-3
Kick-off: 14:55 local (12.45 GMT)
Referee: Sébastien Clouté


USA Perpignan v Rugby Club Toulonnais
Barcelona Olympic Stadium

Perpignan's last two matches couldn't be tougher with the seven-time champions hosting Toulon followed by a trip to Clermont, who beat them in the 2010 championship final.

USAP are under serious threat of joining Biarritz in the ProD2 next term so will be hoping for some inspiration from their Catalan fans across the Spanish border.

The hosts shouldn't expect any favours from Toulon though as RCT are fighting for a direct qualification for the semi-finals.

Perpignan have not beaten Toulon since their 2011 Heineken Cup quarter-final in Barlecona.

Perpignan have played two games at the Olympic Stadium before, beating Toulon in 2011 and Toulouse in 2012.

Toulon welcome back Carl Hayman, Joe van Niekerk and David Smith but haved rested Rudi Wulf, Juan Smith and Martin Castrogiovannil. Jonny Wilkinson, Danie Rossouw and Craig Burden are also absentees.

Remaining fixture for Perpignan: v Clermont (away)
Remaining fixture for Toulon: Stade Français (home)

Result in Round 12: Toulon won 15-9
Kick-off: 17:00 local (15:00 GMT)
Referee: Christophe Berdos


Biarritz Olympique v CA Brive-Corrèze
Parc des Sports d'Aguilera, Biarritz

Biarritz's last game at the Aguilera before they drop out of the top division is set to be an emotional occasion as it will represent a farewell for a number of club icons including scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili and coach Laurent Rodriguez, who has had a bitter falling out with club president Serge Blanco.

Biarritz have lost nine times at home this season, but have beaten Brive in the last six meetings between these sides, including a rare win on the road in Round 12.

Brive's hopes of a Top 14 play-off berth pretty much ended in defeat to Toulouse last week but they are very much still in the running for seventh spot, synonymous with a chance of playing in the inaugural European Champions Cup, via a play-off with an English club. They will thus not lack motivation.

Remaining fixture for Biarritz: Bordeaux (away)
Remaining fixture for Brive: v Oyonnax (home)

Result in Round 12: Biarritz won 14-9
Kick-off: 18:30 local (16.30 GMT)
Referee: Cédric Marchat


FC Grenoble v Aviron Bayonnais
Stade Lesdiguières, Grenoble

Grenoble are feeling vulnerable having lost their last five matches. They host Bayonne before finishing their campaign away to Toulouse and anything other than a win Saturday could be fatal to their survival chances as another loss on home soil will throw Bayonne a lifeline.

Sitting comfortable in fourth place in February, the wheels have come off the bus at FCG, with coach Fabrice Landreau claiming his players grew complacent.

Defeat for Bayonne would leave the Basques with a massive task to stay up with the defending champions their visitors on the final weekend.

Remaining fixture for Grenoble: Toulouse (away)
Remaining fixture for Bayonne: v Castres (home)

Result in Round 12: Bayonne won 24-21
Kick-off: 18:30 local (16.30 GMT)
Referee:Cyril Lafon


Racing Métro 92 v ASM Clermont
Stade Yves Du Manoir - Colombes (Paris)

While the top three are aiming to secure a top two finish to ensure they miss the first round of play-offs, fourth-placed but in-form Racing-Metro will have eyes on a home knockout game.

Their run-in isn't easy though as defeat to the European semi-finalists ahead of their trip to Montpellier on the final weekend would mean they could be caught by either Parisian neighbours Stade Français or Bordeaux-Begles.

However, with four straight wins and only one defeat in their last eight, Racing are just starting to deliver on their immense potential and will be feeling confident. A repeat of their Heineken Cup pool win against Clermont will secure a play-off spot.

Clermont's form on the road hasn't been great and with a trip to Twickenham looming large on the horizon, it will be interesting to see how they approach the game.

Clermont have won just twice in seven visits to Colombes.

Julien Bardy has been ruled out but Aurelien Rougerie, Julien Malzieu, Thomas Domingo and Fritz Lee return from injury.

Remaining fixture for Racing: Montpellier (away)
Remaining fixture for Clermont: v Perpignan (home)

Result in Round 12: Clermont won 47-14
Kick-off: 18:30 local (16.30 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite


Stade Français v Union Bordeaux-Bègles
Stade Jean Bouin, Paris

Bordeaux, fighting to break into the play-offs, face a trip to the capital where Stade Francais have lost just once this season.

But the home side are on a downward spiral. Having set the pace for much of the season, Stade Francais have not won in their last five games in all competitions and now need a minor miracle if they hope to reach their goal of qualifying for Europe and the play-offs.

Bordeaux's Australian wing Blair Connor will miss season with ankle and knee injuries. The 25-year-old joined from the Reds in 2010 when Bordeaux were still in the second division. Last September he signed a two-year extension to his deal with an option for a further season.

Bordeaux's problems meanwhile were compounded by injuries also in last Saturday's loss to Toulon as props Laurent Delhoubes (head knock) and Jefferson Poirot (left ankle) were casualties.

Stade Français have been boosted by the return of injured skipper Sergio Parisse, who will start at number eight.

Remaining fixture for Stade Français: Toulon (away)
Remaining fixture for Bordeaux-Bègles: Biarritz (home)

Result in Round 12: Bordeaux-Bègles won 45-23
Kick-off: 20:35 (18.35 GMT)
Referee: Pascal Gaüzère

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 26
London Welsh vs Gloucester19:45
Saturday , September 27
Saracens vs Sale15:00
Leicester vs London Irish15:00
Northampton vs Bath15:15
Sunday , September 28
Exeter vs Harlequins14:00
Wasps vs Newcastle14:00
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Saturday , September 27
South Africa vs Australia16:05
Argentina vs New Zealand23:10
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Friday , September 26
Edinburgh vs Scarlets19:35
Leinster vs Cardiff Blues19:35
Glasgow vs Connacht19:35
Saturday , September 27
Zebre vs Ulster15:00
Munster vs Ospreys18:30
Sunday , September 28
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Benetton Treviso16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , September 27
Toulon vs Montpellier18:00
Stade Francais vs La Rochelle18:00
Bayonne vs Toulouse18:00
Brive vs Bordeaux-Begles18:00
Oyonnax vs Clermont Auvergne18:00
Lyon vs Castres18:00
Grenoble vs Racing Metro Paris18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 26
Cheetahs vs Blue Bulls19:10
Saturday , September 27
Sharks vs Eastern Province Kings14:00
Pumas vs Western Province15:00
Griquas vs Lions15:00
More Currie Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 21
Newcastle 10 - 35 NorthamptonNewcastle vs Northampton Report
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Guinness PRO12
Ospreys 62 - 13 EdinburghOspreys vs Edinburgh Report
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ITM Cup
Otago 38 - 7 WaikatoOtago vs Waikato Report
Wellington 20 - 42 TasmanWellington vs Tasman Report
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Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 20
Sale 46 - 8 London WelshSale vs London Welsh Report
Harlequins 26 - 23 WaspsHarlequins vs Wasps Report
London Irish 32 - 36 SaracensLondon Irish vs Saracens Report
Bath 45 - 0 LeicesterBath vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Newport Gwent D'gons 13 - 33 GlasgowNewport Gwent D
Scarlets 43 - 0 Benetton TrevisoScarlets vs Benetton Treviso Report
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Top 14
Racing Metro Paris 27 - 16 ToulouseRacing Metro Paris vs Toulouse Report
Grenoble 24 - 15 Bayonne
Montpellier 23 - 3 Stade FrancaisMontpellier vs Stade Francais Report
La Rochelle 26 - 29 Bordeaux-Begles
Clermont Auvergne 43 - 12 LyonClermont Auvergne vs Lyon Report
Castres 27 - 18 Oyonnax
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Western Province 36 - 12 GriquasWestern Province vs Griquas Report
Blue Bulls 15 - 26 SharksBlue Bulls vs Sharks Report
Eastern Province Kings 22 - 37 CheetahsEastern Province Kings vs Cheetahs Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Hawkes Bay 36 - 17 Bay Of Plenty
Manawatu 36 - 17 Southland
Auckland 32 - 7 North HarbourAuckland vs North Harbour Report
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Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 19
Gloucester 22 - 25 ExeterGloucester vs Exeter Report
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Guinness PRO12
Munster 31 - 5 ZebreMunster vs Zebre Report
Cardiff Blues 9 - 26 UlsterCardiff Blues vs Ulster Report
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Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath314
2Saracens313
3Northampton311
4Exeter310
5Leicester Tigers39