Preview: Top 14, Round Seven

Date published: October 30 2015

Montpellier can keep the pressure on Clermont at the summit of the Top 14 but face a tricky clash at home to Toulouse.

Table-toppers Clermont then host Castres in Saturday's evening game as they look to bounce back from their first loss of the season last week.

Elsewhere in-form pair Racing 92 and Brive clash at Colombes, while Stade Français desperately need a win away at struggling Agen.

Bordeaux-Bègles can build on their win over Toulouse last time out with their home game against La Rochelle.

Finally Sunday's clash sees Toulon travel away to Grenoble in a tricky fixture as they try to cement their place in the play-off places.


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

Bordeaux-Bègles v La Rochelle
Stade Chaban Delmas, Bordeaux

A week after avenging one heartbreaking home loss, Bordeaux can repeat the feat against La Rochelle.

Raphaël Ibanez's team sneaked home against Toulouse last Saturday, winning by two points after losing both meetings between the sides by a single point last year.

They also lost by a point to La Rochelle at home last season, a result that proved costly as they just missed out on the play-offs.

That was a huge shock, and La Rochelle's only away victory of the campaign, but a repeat on Saturday would be an even bigger surprise.

While La Rochelle haven't been too bad on the road this season, despite three losses at Racing, Toulon and Toulouse, Bordeaux look to be coming into form.

In Baptiste Serin they have one of the in-form players in the league, while Loann Goujon looked in cracking form last time out. He will be going up against his former team, and his battle with fellow back rower Kevin Gourdon will be worth a watch.

The former is certainly the more powerful ball-carrier, but Gourdon is probably a better handler and more of a link man.

A win for Bordeaux will likely put them in the play-off positions, where they plan to be at the end of the season.

La Rochelle's ambitions aren't quite that grand, but a first away win of the campaign would stretch the gap from the bottom a little further.

Bordeaux-Bègles: 15 Jean-Marcellin Buttin, 14 Metuisela Talebula, 13 Felix le Bourhis, 12 Julien Rey, 11 Blair Connor, 10 Romain Lonca, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Loann Goujon, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Louis-Benoit Madaule, 5 Jandre Marais, 4 Julien Ledevedec, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Benat Auzqui, 1 Sébastien Taofifenua
Replacements: 16 Clément Maynadier, 17 Jean-Baptiste Poux, 18 Adam Jaulhac, 19 Peter Saili, 20 Yann Lesgourgues, 21 Lionel Beauxis, 22 Charles Brousse, 23 Albert Toetu

La Rochelle: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Alexander Northam, 13 Pierre Aguillon, 12 Levani Botia, 11 Gabriel Lacroix, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Kevin Gourdon, 7 Afa Amosa, 6 Jone Qovu, 5 Romana Graham, 4 Jason Eaton, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Maxime Gau, 1 Vincent Pelo
Replacements: 16 David Roumieu, 17 Thomas Synaeghel, 18 Leandro Cedaro, 19 Romain Sazy, 20 Julien Audy, 21 Charles Bouldoire, 22 Benjamin Lapeyre, 23 Lekso Kaulashvili

Last year's result: La Rochelle won 22-21
Kick-off: 14:00 local (13:00 GMT)
Referee: Cedric Marchat

Oyonnax v Pau
Stade Charles Mathon, Oyonnax

A crucial relegation battle will take place at Oyonnax where two teams with just three wins between them face off.

Oyo have already lost to Clermont and Racing at home, while Pau's defeat at home to Brive last week showed they will likely be relegation battlers as well.

Olivier Azam's team's only win of the campaign came against Bordeax, more than a month ago, and their chances will look pretty grim if they can't see off Pau at home.

After losing the spine of their team over the off-season, it's no surprise to see Oyonnax struggling, but unlike Pau, they don't have a pair of All Blacks to come back into their side.

Conrad Smith and Colin Slade certainly won't solve all of Pau's problems, and they almost certainly won't feature next week.

Still, the knowledge that potentially two double World Cup winners are on their way, certainly gives a little more hope for the future, even if the season has started slowly.

Oyonnax: 15 Florian Denos, 14 Daniel Ikpefan, 13 Vincent Martin, 12 Eamonn Sheridan, 11 Alaska Taufa, 10 Nicky Robinson, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Viliame Ma'afu, 7 Olivier Missoup, 6 Valentin Ursache, 5 Fabrice Metz, 4 George Robson, 3 Marc Clerc, 2 Jody Jenneker, 1 Stan Wright
Replacements: 16 Jérémie Maurouard, 17 Soane Tonga'uiha, 18 Leon Power, 19 Pedrie Wannenburg, 20 Fabien Cibray, 21 Régis Lespinas, 22 Pierrick Gunther, 23 Horatiu Pungea

Pau: 15 Damien Traille, 14 Elijah Niko, 13 Julien Fumat, 12 Jale Vatubua, 11 Mosese Ratuvou, 10 Brandon Fajardo, 9 Samuel Marques, 8 Paddy Butler, 7 Jean Bouilhou, 6 Guillaume Bernad, 5 Andrew Ramsay, 4 Julien Pierre, 3 Sylvain Charlet, 2 Thomas Bianchin, 1 Jérémy Hurou
Replacements: 16 Quentin Lespiaucq, 17 Chris King, 18 Josefa Domolailai, 19 Brice Monzeglio, 20 Sean Dougall, 21 Thibault Daubagna, 22 Charly Malié, 23 Euan Murray

Previous result: Oyonnax won 26-21 in 2012 in Pro D2
Kick-off: 14:00 local (13:00 GMT)
Referee: Thomas Charabas

Agen v Stade Français
Stade Armandie, Agen

Things are getting desperate for both Agen and Stade Français after just six games.

Agen have lost five of six and are already rooted to the bottom of the table, with two home defeats to their name.

Stade meanwhile are already eight points off the play-off spots.

Neither situation is definitive but another loss will leave one of the two with a huge amount of ground to make up.

For Agen, the form of Brive means that they are likely battling with Pau, Oyonnax and La Rochelle in the relegation battle. They can't afford to slip too far behind, even if their home games with their fellow strugglers are still to come.

When it comes to Stade, last week's loss to Racing was promising in some respects, especially a try for huge talent Sekou Macalou. Still, they came away with nothing for the game, and are behind the eight-ball in the play-off race.

They can of course turn that around, and a win at Agen would certainly be a good start.

Almost all of their World Cup contingent are now back, and with a full deck to choose from, Gonzalo Quesada should be able to put together a team that is closer to the Top 14-winning side of last May and June.

Agen: 15 Mathieu Lamoulie, 14 Tamaz Mchelidze, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Lionel Mazars, 11 Georges Tisley, 10 Burton Francis, 9 Alexis Bales, 8 Marc Giraud, 7 Antoine Erbani, 6 Luke Hamilton, 5 William Demotte, 4 Api Ratuniyarawa, 3 Arthur Joly, 2 Mike Tadjer, 1 Viliamu Afatia
Replacements: 16 Marc Barthomeuf, 17 Dave Ryan, 18 Apisai Naikatini, 19 Rémi Vaquin, 20 Clement Darbo, 21 Bautista Guemes, 22 Eroni Narumasa, 23 Ruaan du Preez

Stade Français: 15 Hugo Bonneval, 14 Julien Arias, 13 Paul Williams, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Jérémy Sinzelle, 10 Jules Plisson, 9 Julien Tomas, 8 Jono Ross, 7 Sekou Macalou, 6 Sylvain Nicolas, 5 Alexandre Flanquart, 4 Pascal Papé, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Laurent Sempéré, 1 Zurabi Zhvania
Replacements: 16 Rémi Bonfils, 17 Heinke van der Merwe, 18 Paul Gabrillagues, 19 Matthieu Ugéna, 20 Clément Daguin, 21 Meyer Bosman, 22 Josaia Raisuqe, 23 Paul Alo Emile

Previous result: Stade won 28-20 in 2013
Kick-off: 14:00 local (13:00 GMT)
Referee: Alexandre Ruiz

Racing 92 v Brive
Stade Yves du Manoir, Colombes

Two of the more under-the-radar teams of the early season, Racing and Brive both have wins over Toulon to their names but neither has really grabbed the imagination just yet.

Racing have five wins from six, won at the European champions and clinically dispatched the French champions last time out.

In hooker Camille Chat, they have probably the most exciting young player to emerge during the World Cup period, while a certain Dan Carter is still to join up with the side.

Meanwhile, Brive, expected to be relegation candidates, have won four games, and like Racing, have also beaten Toulon and Stade.

A win at Racing would be another step up, but they were victorious on the road last time out at Pau.

In Gaëtan Germain they have one of the league's best kickers, and although the rest of his game is rather limited, if he keeps booting them to victories, his profile will grow.

They also have one of the best scrums in the league, and will hope to put Racing under pressure in that area to keep the game tight for as long as possible.

Remarkably for two conservative teams, this fixture produced 78 points last season. A repeat would be a surprise this time around.

Racing: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Henry Chavancy, 11 Marc Andreu, 10 Rémi Talès, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Antoine Claassen, 7 Thibault Dubarry, 6 Yannick Nyanga, 5 Flip Van der Merle, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Cedate Gomes Sa, 2 Camille Chat, 1 Julien Brugnaut
Replacements: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski, 17 Eddy Ben Arous, 18 Ross Filipo, 19 Chris Masoe, 20 Mike Phillips, 21 Benjamin Dambielle, 22 Etienne Dussartre, 23 Ben Tameifuna

Brive: 15 Gaetan Germain, 14 Benito Masilevu, 13 Arnaud Mignardi, 12 Sevanaia Galala, 11 Guillaume Namy, 10 Thomas Laranjeira, 9 Teddy Iribaren, 8 Sisa Koyamaibole, 7 Fabien Sanconnie, 6 Petrus Human, 5 Arnaud Mela, 4 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 3 Kevin Buys, 2 Francois Da Ros, 1 Lucas Pointud
Replacements: 16 Thomas Acquier, 17 Goderdzi Shvelidze, 18 Dominko Waqaniburotu, 19 Poutasi Luafutu, 20 Jean-Baptiste Pejoine, 21 Matthieu Ugalde, 22 Alfi Mafi, 23 Giorgi Jgenti

Last year's result: Racing won 46-32
Kick-off: 14:00 local (13:00 GMT)
Referee: Sébastien Minery

Montpellier v Toulouse
Altrad Stadium, Montpellier

The game of the weekend takes place at the Altrad Stadium as Montpellier aim to add Toulouse to last week's scalp of Clermont.

Jake White's team have made a flying start to the season and will go into this game as favourites, despite the return of Toulouse's World Cup contingent.

Thierry Dusautoir, Louis Picamoles and Gaël Fickou are all back for Ugo Mola's team, who will also play young hooker Julien Marchand.

Their recent record at Montpellier isn't great, having lost there twice last season, once as they were knocked out of the Champions Cup group stages, and the other in the only win during a nightmare ten-game stretch for the Cistes.

This is an altogether different Montpellier team, and with the likes of Benjamin Fall, Timoci Nagusa and Marvin O'Connor, they have plenty of firepower.

Add in the likes of Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis, who are soon to join, and this will be a very dangerous team throughout the season.

A win this weekend and Montpellier will be in good position to challenge for a top two spot, but Toulouse won't go down lightly.

Montpellier: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Benjamin Fall, 13 Timoci Nagusa, 12 Andrew Smith, 11 Marvin O'Connor, 10 Ben Lucas, 9 Nic White, 8 Akapusi Qera, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo (c), 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Antoine Battut, 3 CJ van der Linde, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili
Replacements: 16 Mickaël Ivaldi, 17 Vladimir Ischenko, 18 Robins Tchalé-Watchou, 19 Kélian Galletier, 20 Benoit Paillaugue, 21 Robert Ebersohn, 22 Anthony Floch, 23 Pat Cilliers

Toulouse: 15 Clément Poitrenaud, 14 Timoci Matanavou, 13 Gaël Fickou, 12 Toby Flood, 11 Paul Perez, 10 Luke McAlister, 9 Sébastien Bézy, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Thierry Dusautoir, 6 Yacouba Camara, 5 Joe Tekori, 4 Grégory Lamboley, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Julien Marchand, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Vasil Kakovin, 18 Dorian Aldegheri, 19 Edwin Maka, 20 Imanol Harinordoquy, 21 Gillian Galan, 22 Jean-Marc Doussain, 23 Alexis Palisson

Last year's result: Montpellier 27-26
Kick-off: 14:30 local (13:30 GMT)
Referee: Laurent Cardona

Clermont v Castres
Stade Marcel Michelin, Clermont-Ferrand

After a first loss of the season, Clermont will be desperate for a response, and Castres might just pay the price.

Christophe Urios' side had made a promising start to the season, but last week's home defeat to Grenoble was a poor result, as they had Alexandre Bias sent off after just 25 minutes.

They have only managed one point on the road so far this season, and with issues at fly-half, turning that around will be tough.

While they would have hoped to challenge for a play-off spot, it's already looking like they might not quite be strong enough to really push the best sides.

A win at Clermont would change that perception, but les Jaunards showed their resilience with a late try to claim a losing bonus point at Montpellier last week, and keep their position at the top of the table as a result.

They haven't been able to blood too many youngsters during the World Cup, but they still have as much depth in their squad as pretty much anyone, and with the return of the likes of Morgan Parra, expect them to get even stronger.

Clermont: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 David Strettle, 13 Aurélien Rougerie, 12 Albert Vulivuli, 11 Adrien Planté, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Alexandre Lapandry, 6 Camille Gerondeau, 5 Loic Jacquet, 4 Jamie Cudmore, 3 Clément Ric, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Thomas Domingo
Replacements: 16 Marthinus van der Westhuizen, 17 Raphaël Chaume, 18 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 19 Viktor Kolelishvili, 20 Ludovic Radosavljevic, 21 Brock James, 22 Noa Nakaitaci, 23 Daniel Kotze

Castres: 15 Geoffrey Palis, 14 David Smith, 13 Rudi Wulf, 12 Romain Cabannes, 11 Romain Martial, 10 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 9 Julien Seron, 8 Alex Tulou, 7 Piula Faaselele, 6 Yannick Caballero, 5 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Yohan Montès, 2 Brice Mach, 1 Mihaita Lazar
Replacements: 16 Marc-Antoine Rallier, 17 Lucas Martinez, 18 Christophe Samson, 19 Ibrahim Diarra, 20 Antoine Dupont, 21 Julien Dumora, 22 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 23 Florian Houerie

Last year's result: Clermont won 19-10
Kick-off: 20:45 local (19:45 GMT)
Referee: Maxime Chalon

Grenoble v Toulon
Stade des Alpes, Grenoble

After back-to-back losses at Grenoble, Toulon turned things around last season with a convincing win in the closing stages of the regular season.

They are still a long way off being full-strength, but some of their World Cup players are filtering back, including Samu Manoa, who will start in the second row this week.

Grenoble picked up a valuable win at Castres last week, but will be up against it to back it up with a win over the European champions.

Toulon are currently sixth, and coming off a thumping win over Oyonnax.

In that game Josua Tuisova again proved why he is one of the biggest threats in the Top 14 with ball in hand. Bryan Habana and Drew Mitchell might both be in action in the World Cup this weekend, but one or other might miss out on their return to the Fijian cannonball.

Grenoble: tbc

Toulon: tbc

Last year's result: Toulon won 35-24
Kick-off: 16:15 local (15:15 GMT)
Referee: Cyril Lafon