Preview: Top 14 Round Five

Date published: October 15 2015

It's a busy Friday night as the Top 14 gets back underway, with six matches in total including a huge match for champions Stade Français.

Bottom of the table after four matches, the Parisians entertain Castres at Jean Bouin knowing that defeat is not an option.

Elsewhere Clermont will expect to extend their lead at the top of the table at home to Pau, while Toulouse can keep the pressure on with a home win over La Rochelle.

Second-placed Montpellier travel to Grenoble in a game that could have big play-off implications at the end of the season, while Agen host struggling Bordeaux-Bègles.

Finally on Saturday Brive host Toulon, who have won two on the spin after a slow start to the season.


Clermont v Pau
Oyonnax v Racing 92
Grenoble v Montpellier
Agen v Bordeaux-Bègles
Stade Français v Castres
Toulouse v La Rochelle

Brive v Toulon

Clermont v Pau
Stade Marcel Michelin, Clermont-Ferrand

With three wins and a draw so far this season, Clermont have been the form team, and they will fancy their chances of extending that unbeaten run at least another week.

That's because Pau have been a completely different side on their travels so far, with heavy losses at Stade Français and Grenoble.

While they've beaten Montpellier and Toulouse at the Stade du Hameau, indiscipline on the road has been a real issue, and they will surely pay the price if it continues at the Marcel Michelin.

Clermont have four of their World Cup contingent back, and while Peceli Yato is injured, Davit Zirakashvili, Viktor Kolelishvili and Jamie Cudmore will all be valuable additions to the squad.

In their absence a number of young players have stepped up, not least second row Paul Jedrasiak, and Clermont will be itching to make up for a draw at home against Bordeaux-Bègles last time out.

Coach Franck Azéma was furious at the refereeing of that game, but les Jaunards will hope to prevent the officials from having an influence in this clash.

Clermont: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 David Strettle, 13 Aurélien Rougerie, 12 Albert Vulivuli, 11 Adrien Planté, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Jean-Baptiste Bruzulier, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Julien Bardy, 6 Alexandre Lapandry, 5 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 4 Loic Jacquet, 3 Clément Ric, 2 Marius van der Westhuizen, 1 Raphaël Chaume
Replacements: 16 Pierre Rude, 17 Thomas Domingo, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Camille Gérondeau, 20 Ludovic Radosavljevic, 21 Patricio Fernandez, 22 Hosea Gear, 23 Daniel Kotze

Pau: 15 Damien Traille, 14 Marika Vunibaka, 13 Jale Vatubua, 12 Albert Vulivuli, 11 Mosese Ratuvou, 10 Santiago Fernandez, 9 Thierry Lacrampe, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Patrick Butler, 6 Sean Dougall, 5 Daniel Ramsay, 4 Julien Pierre, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Vincent Campo, 1 Julien Jacquot
Replacements: 16 Mehdi Boundjema, 17 Jeremy Hurou, 18 Claude Dry, 19 Josefa Domolailai, 20 Samuel Marques, 21 Brandon Fajardo, 22 Charly Malie, 23 Giorgi Natsarashvili

Previous result: Clermont won 27-13 in 2006
Kick-off: 19:45 local (17:45 GMT)
Referee: Cedric Marchat

Oyonnax v Racing 92
Stade Charles Mathon, Oyonnax

Two of last year's play-off teams meet in Oyonnax but while Oyo enjoyed the best season of the club's history, it was more disappointment for Racing.

Both sides fell at the barrages stage of the play-offs, but they appear to be heading in different directions so far this year.

Oyonnax impressed in their lone win over Bordeaux, but have lost their other three games, including a home defeat to Clermont.

Racing, by contrast, have won three from four, and while their best performance of the season remains an opening day win over Toulon, they are still in a good position as it stands.

That's particularly true when you consider that Racing are without a host of World Cup players, they are the top contributors to France's matchday squad to take on New Zealand with seven players, while on the other side will be Dan Carter.

The French contingent should be back as early as next week, and a second win on the road would certainly set Racing up nicely for that.

They haven't won at Oyonnax in eight years though, so Olivier Azam's team will go in as favourites to get their second win of the campaign.

Oyonnax: 15 Quentin Etienne, 14 Alaska Taufa, 13 Vincent Martin, 12 Eamonn Sheridan, 11 Uwa Tawalo, 10 Nick Robinson, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Pedrie Wannenburg, 7 Olivier Missoup, 6 Pierrick Gunther, 5 Fabrice Metz, 4 George Robson, 3 Marc Clerc, 2 Jody Jenneker, 1 Stan Wright
Replacements: 16 Thomas Bordes, 17 Laurent Delboulbès, 18 Leon Power, 19 Florian Faure, 20 Fabien Cibray, 21 Régis Lespinas, 22 Florian Denos, 23 Horatiu Pungea

Racing 92: 15 Johan Goosen, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Henry Chavancy, 11 Marc Andreu, 10 Benjamin Dambielle, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Antonie Claassen, 7 Thibault Dubarry, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Francois van der Merwe, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Cedate Gomes Sa, 2 Camille Chat, 1 Julien Brugnaut
Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Davit Khinchagashvili, 18 Juandre Kruger, 19 Chris Masoe, 20 Xavier Chauveau, 21 Etienne Dussartre, 22 Louis Dupichot, 23 Nicolas Mirande

Last year's result: Oyonnax won 21-16
Kick-off: 19:45 local (17:45 GMT)
Referee: Alexandre Ruiz

Grenoble v Montpellier
Stade des Alpes, Grenoble

Grenoble finally ended their hoodoo against Montpellier, who they failed to beat in their first five matches since returning to the top flight.

Even so, they only emerged 20-18 winners when the teams met in February, Jonathan Wisniewski late penalty nicking the win.

This year Grenoble have been dominant at home with ten points from a possible ten, albeit with a scare in their opener against Agen.

Montpellier are looking ominous though, with enough depth in the squad to cope with their World Cup absentees.

A powerful pack, combined with opportunism from their quick men makes them a tough team to beat, and another win would keep the pressure on Clermont at the top of the league.

Their squad was boosted this week by the arrival of Demetri Catrakilis, who joins from Western Province having played in the Currie Cup.

He and François Trinh-Duc offer some real depth at fly-half, and his style should suit White's game plan to perfection.

Grenoble: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Lucas Dupont, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Nigel Hunt, 11 Armand Batlle, 10 Jonathan Wisniewski, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Rory Grice, 7 Steven Setephano, 6 Jonathan Best, 5 Hendrik Roodt, 4 Ben Hand, 3 Dayna Edwards, 2 Arnaud Héguy, 1 Denis Coulson
Replacements: 16 Anthony Hegarty, 17 Alexandre Dardet, 18 Mathias Marie, 19 Mahamadou Diaby, 20 Lilian Saseras, 21 Gilles Bosch, 22 Xavier Mignot, 23 Rossouw de Klerk

Montpellier: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Benjamin Fall, 13 Timoci Nagusa, 12 Andrew Smith, 11 Marvin O'Connor, 10 François Trinh-Duc, 9 Benoit Paillaugue, 8 Kélian Galletier, 7 Ben Mowen, 6 Willem Liebenberg, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Robins Tchale Watchou, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Mickael Ivaldi, 1 Schalk van der Merwe
Replacements: 16 Charles Géli, 17 Mikheil Nariashvili, 18 Antoine Battut, 19 Akapusi Qera, 20 Nic White, 21 Ben Lucas, 22 Anthony Tuitavake, 23 CJ van der Linde

Last year's result: Grenoble won 20-18
Kick-off: 19:45 local (17:45 GMT)
Referee: Sébastien Minery

Agen v Bordeaux-Bègles
Stade Armandie, Agen

After just four weeks, this is already a huge game for both sides, with two wins between them.

Bordeaux managed a draw at Clermont last time out, arguably their best display of the year so far, but having led 20-6 at half-time, they will feel that they should have got more from that game.

Add in the late missed penalties which cost them victory at home to Montpellier, and it's been a frustrating start to the season for the ambitious side.

They have some top quality players to come back, including Fijian star Metuisela Talebula who could return next week, but injuries have hit them hard so far this season.

The backline has been particularly hard-hit, with scrum-half Baptiste Serin having to fill in at ten, and that remains a problem position, with full-back Romain Lonca the only player with real experience in the position currently available.

Agen, meanwhile, are better than their four points so far suggest, but have made too many costly errors at critical moments.

They were very much in touch against Grenoble before falling apart in the final 15 minutes, while their loss to Toulouse effectively came down to two overthrown lineouts which gifted Corey Flynn an easy double.

Cut those mistakes out, and improve their scrum – easier said than done – and Agen might not be the locks for relegation that many predicted. They'll need to start with a home win on Friday.

Agen: 15 Mathieu Lamoulie, 14 George Tilsley, 13 Eroni Narumasa, 12 Lionel Mazars, 11 Pierre Fouyssac, 10 Burton Francis, 9 Alexis Balès, 8 Marc Giraud, 7 Antoine Erbani, 6 Rémi Vaquin, 5 William Demotte, 4 Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, 3 Ruaan du Preez, 2 Jalil Narjissi, 1 Bernard Nnomo
Replacements: 16 Mike Tadjer, 17 Viliamu Afatia, 18 Corentin Braendlin, 19 Luke Hamilton, 20 Clément Darbo, 21 Bautista Guemes, 22 Johann Sadie, 23 Arthur Joly

Bordeaux-Bègles: 15 Jean-Marcellin Buttin, 14 Nans Ducuing, 13 Felix le Bourhis, 12 Julien Rey, 11 Blair Connor, 10 Romain Lonca, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Loann Goujon, 7 Hugh Chalmers, 6 Peter Saili, 5 Berend Botha, 4 Jandre Marais, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Benat Auzqui, 1 Jefferson Poirot
Replacements: 16 Clément Maynadier, 17 Sébastien Taofifenua, 18 Julien Ledevedec, 19 Marco Tauleigne, 20 Luke Braid, 21 Yann Lesgourgues, 22 Manu Ahotaeiloa, 23 Albert Toetu

Previous result: Agen won 19-15 in 2012
Kick-off: 19:45 local (17:45 GMT)
Referee: Mathieu Raynal

Stade Français v Castres
Stade Jean Bouin, Paris

Four months on from their title win, Stade Français find themselves in the unenviable position of being bottom of the league.

Three losses on the bounce since their opening win over Pau have demonstrated their lack of depth compared to the other top sides in the league.

A first choice Stade pack is certainly a match for anyone, but take out a few first team players, and they really struggle to cope, and they will still be without Rabah Slimani, Pascal Papé, Alexandre Flanquart and Sergio Parisse this weekend.

Facing them will be a Castres side that has bonuced back well from the disappointment of last season's campaign.

While two wins from four isn't that impressive, they've been good enough to show that they could be contenders for the play-offs this season.

As expected Christophe Urios has improved their pack greatly, and the likes of Alex Tulou have been very good signings. They are without Rémy Grosso, who was their most dangerous strike weapon through the first four weeks.

Still, this is a great opportunity to take some points off a potential play-off rival on the road while they are still short of a full complement.

Stade Français: 15 Hugo Bonneval, 14 Jérémy Sinzelle, 13 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Djibril Camara, 10 Jules Plisson, 9 Julien Dupuy, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Raphaël Lakafia, 6 Jono Ross, 5 Gerhard Mostert, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Rémi Bonfils, 1 Heinke van der Merwe
Replacements: 16 Laurent Sempéré, 17 Zurabi Zhvania, 18 Paul Gabrillagues, 19 Antoine Burban, 20 Julien Tomas, 21 Meyer Bosman, 22 Julien Arias, 23 Giorgi Melikidze

Castres: 15 Geoffrey Palis, 14 David Smith, 13 Rudi Wulf, 12 Rémi Lamerat, 11 Romain Martial, 10 Julien Dumora, 9 Julien Seron, 8 Alex Tulou, 7 Alexandre Bias, 6 Yannick Caballero, 5 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 4 Christophe Samson, 3 Karena Wihongi, 2 Brice Mach, 1 Mihaita Lazar
Replacements: 16 Marc-Antoine Railler, 17 Yohan Montes, 18 Piula Faasalele, 19 Mathieu Babillot, 20 Antoine Dupont, 21 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 22 Florian Vialelle, 23 Florian Houerie

Last year's result: Stade Français won 49-13
Kick-off: 19:45 local (17:45 GMT)
Referee: Cyril Lafon

Toulouse v La Rochelle
Stade Ernest Wallon, Toulouse

The Ugo Mola reign suffered its first defeat last time out away at Pau, in comfortably the worst performance from Toulouse this year.

Reminiscent of some of the troubles last season, Toulouse were beaten up in the pack, struggling both at scrum-time and at the breakdown.

They paid the price for their indiscipline in a dour affair, losing 9-6, and allowing Montpellier to leapfrog them into second.

A home game against La Rochelle should be a good way of getting back on track, but they struggled in the corresponding fixture last season.

Dominant for the first half, they struggled in the second, allowing La Rochelle to pick up their first away points of the campaign.

Les Rochelais have been better away from home this season, and should have won at Racing in round two.

And despite eventually being thrashed by Toulon, they also had their moments in that game, dominating the first half-hour.

An upset this weekend would be a surprise, but La Rochelle won't go down easy at Ernest Wallon.

Toulouse: 15 Maxime Médard, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Florian Fritz, 12 Yann David, 11 Timoci Matanavou, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Sébastien Bézy, 8 Imanol Harinordoquy, 7 Tala Gray, 6 Yacouba Camara, 5 Joe Tekori, 4 Romain Millo-Chluski, 3 Dorian Aldegheri, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Vasil Kakovin
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Gert Muller, 19 Gillian Galan, 20 Grégory Lamboley, 21 Clément Poitrenaud, 22 Jean-Marc Doussain, 23 Luke McAlister 

La Rochelle: 15 Benjamin Lapeyre, 14 Gabriel Lacroix, 13 Pierre Aguillon, 12 Jean-Pascal Barraque, 11 Malietoa Hingano, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Enrico Januarie, 8 Kevin Gourdon, 7 Afaesetiti Amosa, 6 Zeno Kieft, 5 Damien Lagrange, 4 Jason Eaton, 3 Lekso Kaulashvili, 2 David Roumieu, 1 Thomas Synaeghel
Replacements: 16 Maxime Gau, 17 Jordan Seneca, 18 Romain Sazy, 19 Benoit Guyot, 20 Jules le Bail, 21 Fabien Fortassin, 22 Charles Bouldoire, 23 Vincent Pelo

Last year's result: Toulouse won 29-26
Kick-off: 21:00 local (19:00 GMT)
Referee: Maxime Chalon