Preview: Top 14, Round Three

29th Aug 2014, 22:12

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Big game: Racing and Jonathan Sexton welcome Toulon on Saturday night

Big game: Racing and Jonathan Sexton welcome Toulon on Saturday night

It's only been two weeks but the Top 14 table already has an ominously familiar look to it.

It's only been two weeks but the Top 14 table already has an ominously familiar look to it.

Toulon, Toulouse and Clermont lead the way, with Bordeaux-Bègles and Stade Français the other teams with two wins from two.

Meanwhile at the bottom Oyonnax and Lyon have just one point despite valiant efforts away at Toulouse and Stade respectively, while La Rochelle are dead last after hammerings at Brive and Toulon.

This weekend will see a huge clash between Racing-Métro and Toulon while Castres and Grenoble have to win on home soil after struggling in the opening fortnight.

Fixtures
Clermont v Montpellier
La Rochelle v Toulouse
Castres v Bayonne
Grenoble v Bordeaux
Lyon v Brive
Oyonnax v Stade Français
Racing-Métro v Toulon




La Rochelle v Toulouse

Last week Toulouse were under huge pressure after an unconvincing win over Oyonnax and two disappointing seasons.

They responded in style with a comprehensive dismantling of Castres to move level at the top of the table.

It's not enough to say the great Toulouse are back, after all they had a number of impressive performances at home last campaign as well, but it was dominant display, both up front and in the three-quarters.

They travel to La Rochelle for their first away game of the campaign, and they will be eager to improve on last year's away form, when they managed just one domestic win all season.

Up against them La Rochelle need a win to get their season off the mark, and if they are to do so they will need to improve their discipline.

Against Toulon last week they made a quick start but crumbled when they were reduced to 13 men for the second week running.

They are currently pointless, and they will surely have to build a platform through their home form if they are to beat the drop.

La Rochelle's set-piece has been a concern so far and that will also need to improve if they are to get a first win of the campaign.

La Rochelle: 15 Arthur Cestaro, 14 Alofa Alofa, 13 Jean-Pascal Barraque, 12 Levani Botia, 11 Sereli Bobo, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Julien Audy, 8 Loann Goujon, 7 Kevin Gourdon, 6 Nicolas Djebaili, 5 Jacobus Grobler, 4 Jason Eaton, 3 Uini Atonio (c), 2 Hika Forbes, 1 Thomas Synaeghel
Replacements: 16 Benjamin Geledan, 17 Vincent Pelo, 18 Romain Sazy, 19 Benoit Guyot, 20 Julien Berger, 21 Albert Vulivuli, 22 Hamish Gard, 23 Lekso Kaulashvili

Toulouse: 15 Maxime Medard, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Yann David, 12 Florian Fritz, 11 Timoci Matanavou, 10 Luke McAlister, 9 Sebastien Bezy, 8 Gillian Galan, 7 Thierry Dusautoir (c), 6 Gregory Lamboley, 5 Joe Tekori, 4 Yoann Maestri, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Kisi Pulu
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Cyril Baille, 18 Patricio Albacete, 19 Imanol Harinordoquy, 20 Jean-Marc Doussain, 21 Gael Fickou, 22 Alexis Palisson, 23 Neemia Tialata

Date: Saturday, August 30
Venue: Stade Marcel Deflandre
Kick-off: 14.45 local (13.45 GMT)
Referee: Cyril Lafon
Assistant referees: Julien Castaignède, Laurent Sclafer




Castres v Bayonne

Things certainly haven't gone to plan for Castres so far this season with a shock opening day defeat at home to Stade Français followed by a hammering away to Toulouse last Friday.

If the Stade loss could be seen as a blip, conceding a last-minute try to lose the game, the Toulouse game was a lot more worrying.

Last year's Top 14 runners-up were very much second-best, although with Ramiro Herrera and Karena Wihongi both missing, that is not a huge surprise.

But when Toulouse increased the pace of the game, Castres were not able to live with them, and that is something they will have to change quickly.

They have the perfect opportunity on Saturday against Bayonne, although the Basque side come into the game brimming with confidence after a cracking win over Oyonnax.

The back three of Scott Spedding, Joe Rokocoko and Marvin O'Connor wreaked havoc and will again look to pounce on any poor kicks, while Bayonne also sorted out their set-piece issues which had been a major reason for their opening loss to Toulon.

While Castres' defeat to Stade was officially on home soil, the game was actually played in Béziers, and they will welcome a return to Pierre Antoine, where they went unbeaten in the Top 14 last season.

Bayonne on the other hand, have a terrible record away from home, managing a lone win at Biarritz last season on their travels.

Castres: 15 Julien Dumora, 14 Max Evans, 13 Remi Lamerat, 12 Thomas Combezou, 11 Marcel Garvey, 10 Remi Tales (c), 9 Rory Kockott, 8 John Beattie, 7 Yannick Caballero, 6 Piula Fa'aselele, 5 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Yohan Montes, 2 Brice Mach, 1 Saimone Taumoepeau
Replacements: 16 Marc-Antoine Rallier, 17 Mihaita Lazar, 18 Christophe Samson, 19 Ibrahim Diarra, 20 Cedric Garcia, 21 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 22 Geoffrey Palis, 23 Paea Fa'anunu

Bayonne: 15 Scott Spedding, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Matthieu Ugalde, 12 Santiago Fernandez, 11 Marvin O'Connor, 10 Blair Stewart, 9 Guillaume Rouet, 8 Charles Ollivon, 7 Dwayne Haare, 6 Pierre Gayraud, 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 Lisiate Fa'aoso, 3 Gert Muller, 2 Gregory Arganese, 1 Aretz Iguiniz
Replacements: 16 Anthony Etrillard, 17 Janse van Rensburg, 18 Dewald Senekal, 19 Jean Jo Marmouyet, 20 Christophe Loustalot, 21 Jon Elissalde, 22 Gillen Larrart, 23 Giorgi Jgenti

Date: Saturday, August 30
Venue: Stade Pierre Antoine
Kick-off: 18.30 local (17.30 GMT)
Referee: Maxime Chalon
Assistant referees: Alexandre Ruiz, Laurent Amic