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 , October 3
Bath vs Saracens19:45
Saturday , October 4
London Irish vs Northampton15:00
Harlequins vs London Welsh15:00
Gloucester vs Leicester15:15
Sunday , October 5
Sale vs Wasps14:00
Newcastle vs Exeter15:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Rugby Championship
Saturday , October 4
South Africa vs New Zealand16:05
Argentina vs Australia23:40
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , October 3
Connacht vs Cardiff Blues19:35
Ulster vs Edinburgh19:35
Zebre vs Ospreys19:35
Saturday , October 4
Leinster vs Munster18:30
Sunday , October 5
Benetton Treviso vs Glasgow14:00
Scarlets vs Newport Gwent D'gons16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , October 3
Oyonnax vs Toulon20:45
Saturday , October 4
Bordeaux-Begles vs Clermont Auvergne14:45
Racing Metro Paris vs Brive18:30
Bayonne vs Montpellier18:30
La Rochelle vs Lyon18:30
Castres vs Grenoble18:30
Toulouse vs Stade Francais20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , October 3
Pumas vs Blue Bulls15:00
Sharks vs Lions19:10
Saturday , October 4
Cheetahs vs Western Province14:00
Griquas vs Eastern Province Kings15:00
More Currie Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 28
Wasps 35 - 18 NewcastleWasps vs Newcastle Report
Exeter 36 - 13 HarlequinsExeter vs Harlequins Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Newport Gwent D'gons 33 - 15 Benetton TrevisoNewport Gwent D
More Guinness PRO12 results
ITM Cup
Tasman 32 - 24 OtagoTasman vs Otago Report
Canterbury 26 - 28 SouthlandCanterbury vs Southland Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 27
Leicester 19 - 22 London IrishLeicester vs London Irish Report
Saracens 40 - 19 Sale SharksSaracens vs Sale Sharks Report
Northampton 31 - 24 BathNorthampton vs Bath Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Rugby Championship
South Africa 28 - 10 AustraliaSouth Africa vs Australia Report
Argentina 13 - 34 New ZealandArgentina vs New Zealand Report
More Rugby Championship results
Guinness PRO12
Zebre 13 - 6 UlsterZebre vs Ulster Report
Munster 14 - 19 OspreysMunster vs Ospreys Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Toulon 40 - 17 MontpellierToulon vs Montpellier Report
Grenoble 27 - 25 Racing Metro ParisGrenoble vs Racing Metro Paris Report
Brive 34 - 24 Bordeaux-Begles
Oyonnax 8 - 19 Clermont Auvergne
Stade Francais 43 - 10 La Rochelle
Lyon 28 - 18 Castres
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Sharks 53 - 24 Eastern Province KingsSharks vs Eastern Province Kings Report
Griquas 8 - 46 LionsGriquas vs Lions Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Waikato 20 - 22 ManawatuWaikato vs Manawatu Report
North Harbour 28 - 25 Hawkes Bay
Counties Manukau 55 - 7 WellingtonCounties Manukau vs Wellington Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 26
London Welsh 10 - 46 GloucesterLondon Welsh vs Gloucester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Leinster 37 - 23 Cardiff BluesLeinster vs Cardiff Blues Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens418
2Northampton416
3Bath415
4Exeter414
5Wasps411