Top 14 Preview: Round 14

Date published: December 23 2016

After a fortnight of European action the Top 14 is back just before Christmas with a slate of crucial games in both the play-off battle and the fight for survival.

On Thursday Grenoble and Toulouse kicked things off, before Brive take on Lyon in the early game on Friday.

In a rematch of the 2015 Top 14 final Clermont welcome Stade Français to the Marcel Michelin before Bordeaux-Bègles host Pau.
Bayonne face a must-win clash with high-flying La Rochelle and Racing 92 will be looking to bounce back from European disappointment against Castres.

Finally Montpellier and Toulon face off in the final game of the round on Friday evening with the sides second and third heading into the round.


Grenoble 26-22 Toulouse


Brive v Lyon
Clermont v Stade Français
Bordeaux-Bègles v Pau
Bayonne v La Rochelle
Racing 92 v Castres
Montpellier v Toulon

Brive v Lyon
Stade Amédée Domenech, Brive

Only Clermont have won at Amédée Domenech so far this season, and Brive are arguably the best-placed of the French teams in the Challenge Cup to reach the quarter-finals – along with La Rochelle.

Still, a heavy loss to Toulouse in their last Top 14 game saw them slip to tenth in the table, seven points off the play-off places.
Their hopes of making the top six seem remote, but victory over Lyon would at least get them back in the hunt.

Pierre Mignoni’s side are just three points behind Brive, but also find themselves in the first non-relegation spot, so could do with a victory.

Their away form has been an issue this year, with just a draw against Bayonne to show for their efforts, but losing bonus points against Clermont and then Montpellier are an indication of what they are capable of. And in young second row Félix Lambey, they have a potential French international on their hands – he will start alongside veteran Thibaut Privat in this one.
The teams:

Brive: 15 Gaëtan Germain, 14 Takudzwa Ngwenya, 13 Arnaud Mignardi, 12 Sevenaia Galala, 11 Benito Masilevu, 10 Nicolas Bezy, 9 Teddy Iribaren, 8 Sisa Koyamaibole, 7 Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 6 Said Hireche, 5 Johan Snyman, 4 Julien Ledevedec, 3 Patrick-Albert Toetu, 2 Guillaume Ribes, 1 Karlen Asieshvili
Replacements: 16 Francois Da Ros, 17 Damien Lavergne, 18 Jan Uys, 19 Petrus Hauman, 20 Jean-Baptiste Pejoine, 21 Thomas Laranjeira, 22 Benjamin Lapeyre, 23 Damien Jourdain

Lyon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Toby Arnold, 13 Théo Belan, 12 Hemani Paea, 11 Rudi Wulf, 10 Mike Harris, 9 Frédéric Michalak, 8 Taiasina Tuifua, 7 Virgile Bruni, 6 Julien Puricelli, 5 Thibault Privat, 4 Félix Lambey, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Mickaël Ivaldi, 1 Albertus Buckle
Replacements: 16 Ti'I Paulo, 17 Alexandre Menini, 18 Christian Njewel, 19 Deon Fourie, 20 Baptiste Couilloud, 21 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22 Thibault Regard, 23 BJ Botha

Previous result: Brive beat Lyon 22-20 in 2015
Kick-off: 17:00 local (16:00 GMT)
Referee: Alexandre Ruiz

Clermont v Stade Français
Stade Marcel Michelin, Clermont-Ferrand

Clermont are the only French team topping their pool in Europe, and are also four points clear at the summit of the Top 14.
And yet in recent weeks they have been a little out of sorts, with losses at Bayonne and Pau.

Still, on home soil they are very tough to stop, and even with a late fightback from Ulster on Sunday, Clermont’s form in the opening 20 minutes of that encounter was breathtaking.

They face a Stade team who have been busier than usual in the Challenge Cup, putting out relatively strong sides for their double header with Edinburgh.

This will be the first Top 14 game since the news that Gonzalo Quesada is leaving at the end of the year though, and with everything going on behind the scenes, this will be a real challenge.
The teams:

Clermont: 15 Scott Spedding, 14 Noa Nakaitaci, 13 Aurélien Rougerie, 12 Isaia Toeava, 11 Adrien Planté, 10 Patricio Fernández, 9 Ludovic Radosavljevic, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Camille Gerondeau, 6 Peceli Yato, 5 Paul Jedrasiak, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Clément Ric, 2 John Ulugia, 1 Raphaël Chaume
Replacements: 16 Yohan Beheregaray, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Sitaleki Timani, 19 Viktor Kolelishvili, 20 Charlie Cassang, 21 Camille Lopez, 22 Benson Stanley, 23 Davit Zirakashvili

Stade Français: 15 Hugo Bonneval, 14 Waisea Nayacalevu, 13 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Jérémy Sinzelle, 10 Jules Plisson, 9 Will Genia, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Sekou Macalou, 6 Antoine Burban, 5 Paul Gabrillagues, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Laurent Sempere, 1 Heinke Van der Merwe
Replacements: 16 Laurent Panis, 17 Zurabi Zhvania, 18 Pascal Papé, 19 Mathieu de Giovanni, 20 Clément Daguin, 21 Morné Steyn, 22 Josaia Raisuqe, 23 Giorgi Melikidze

Last year’s result: Clermont won 36-10
Kick-off: 19:00 local (18:00 GMT)
Referee: Sébastien Minery

Bordeaux-Bègles v Pau
Stade Chaban Delmas, Bordeaux

Despite being in prime position to make a first-ever Champions Cup quarter-final, Bordeaux chose to rest a number of regulars at home to Exeter last time out.

It proved costly (along with Nans Ducuing’s unfortunate red card) and they now look a long shot to make the last eight.
With that in mind, it will only have been worth it if they pick up some good results over Christmas, starting at home to Pau.

Simon Mannix’s team were comfortably beaten home and away by Bristol – an indication that they aren’t taking the Challenge Cup too seriously either;

With some of their big guns back they will be looking to pick up a scalp of their neighbours to the north, even if the Chaban Delmas is not the easiest of venues to conquer.
The teams:

UBB: 15 Jean-Marcellin Buttin, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Jayden Spence, 12 Julien Rey, 11 Blair Connor, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Loann Goujon, 7 Hugh Chalmers, 6 Luke Braid, 5 Cyril Cazeaux, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 2 Ole Avei, 1 Sébastien Taofifenua
Replacements: 16 Clément Maynadier, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Berend Botha, 19 Louis-Benoit Madaule, 20 Yann Lesgourgues, 21 Lionel Beauxis, 22 Romain Lonca, 23 Jean-Baptiste Poux

Pau: 15 Charly Malie, 14 Bastien Pourailly, 13 Tom Taylor, 12 Jale Vatubua, 11 Mosese Ratuvou, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Thibault Daubagna, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Ben Mowen, 5 Julien Pierre, 4 Masalosalo Tutaia, 3 Sylvain Charlet, 2 Quentin Lespiaucq, 1 Geoffrey Moise
Replacements: 16 Thomas Bianchin, 17 Jamie Mackintosh, 18 Fabrice Metz, 19 Paddy Butler, 20 Daniel Ramsay, 21 Julien Fumat, 22 Taniela Moa, 23 Malik Hamadache

Last year’s result: Bordeaux won 46-10
Kick-off: 19:00 local (18:00 GMT)
Referee: Cedric Marchat

Bayonne v La Rochelle
Stade Jean Dauger, Bayonne

A hammering at Stade Français in their last real game was a body blow for Bayonne; although playing more than an hour with 14 men certainly didn’t help their cause.

The Basques are eight points from safety, and really have to win every home game, but take on a very strong La Rochelle side.
The major talking point for Les Maritimes this week was the dropping of flanker Kevin Gourdon to the Espoirs last weekend.

While the Challenge Cup is not the main priority, it was still surprising to see France’s standout player from November, dropped from his club side.

Gourdon is back in the team this week and will not doubt be looking to prove a point to Patrice Collazo and the coaching staff.

The teams:

Bayonne: 15 Benjamin Thiery, 14 Romain Martial, 13 Félix Le Bourhis, 12 Gabriele Lovobalavu, 11 Ryan Tongia, 10 Willie du Plessis, 9 Manu Saubusse, 8 John Beattie, 7 Baptiste Chouzenoux, 6 Jean Monribot, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 PJ Van Lill, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Manu Leiataua, 1 Aretz Iguiniz
Replacements: 16 David Menage, 17 Jérôme Schuster, 18 Pelu Taele, 19 Jean Jo Marmouyet, 20 Guillaume Rouet, 21 Raphaël Lagarde, 22 Julien Jane, 23 Toma Taufa

La Rochelle: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Gabriel Lacroix, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Levani Botia, 11 Vincent Rattez, 10 Brock James, 9 Alexis Bales, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Kévin Gourdon, 6 Romain Sazy, 5 Jone Qovu Nailiko, 4 Mathieu Tanguy, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Hikairo Forbes, 1 Mike Corbel
Replacements: 16 Jérémie Maurouard, 17 Dany Priso, 18 Leandro Cedaro, 19 Damien Lagrange, 20 Arthur Retiere, 21 Zack Holmes, 22 Pierre Aguillon, 23 Lekso Kaulashvili

Previous result: Bayonne won 23-14 in 2010
Kick-off: 19:00 local (18:00 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite

Racing 92 v Castres
Stade Yves du Manoir, Colombes
After winning the Bouclier de Brennus last season, Racing would not have expected such a massive crash to earth.
Already out of Europe after just three games, Dan Carter became the butt of many jokes as well as some back-and-forth between British and New Zealand media following defeat in Glasgow.

Domestic form hasn’t been much better, with the Parisians currently outside the play-off places, and facing one of their likely top six rivals.

Castres are currently fifth in the league, but only Clermont have a better points differential, and with very few internationals, the Six Nations shouldn’t affect the side as much as some teams.

Christophe Urios is doing a great job with the Tarnais, and Anthony Jelonch looks to be their latest promising back-rower. Victory at Racing would put them in great position ahead of a play-off push.
The teams:

Racing 92: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Henry Chavancy, 12 Albert Vulivuli, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Xavier Chauveau, 8 Antonie Claassen, 7 Yannick Nyanga, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Cedate Gomes Sa, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Eddy Ben Arous
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Viliamu Afatia, 18 Gerbrandt Grobler, 19 Chris Masoe, 20 Maxime Machenaud, 21 Benjamin Dambielle, 22 Joe Rokocoko, 23 Luc Ducalcon

Castres: 15 Geoffrey Palis, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Thomas Combezou, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 David Smith, 10 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 9 Antoine Dupont, 8 Alex Tulou, 7 Anthony Jelonch, 6 Mathieu Babillot, 5 Lo%u200Bïc Jacquet, 4 Thibault Lassalle, 3 Daniel Kotze, 2 Marc-Antoine Rallier, 1 Mihaita Lazar
Replacements: 16 Jody Jenneker, 17 Antoine Tichit, 18 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 19 Yannick Caballero, 20 Julien Seron, 21 Julien Dumora, 22 Florian Vialelle, 23 Yohann Montes

Last year’s result: Castres won 13-9
Kick-off: 19:00 local (18:00 GMT)
Referee: Maxime Chalon

Montpellier v Toulon
Altrad Stadium, Montpellier
A repeat of last season’s semi-final, as Montpellier look to close the gap on Clermont and stretch away from the chasing pack. To do so they will have to improve their discipline, after red cards in both their clashes with Castres, first for Davit Kubriashvili, then for Paul Willemse.

Both came at ruck-time, and while the officiating in the Top 14 may not be quite as strict on entry, it is a concern.
Toulon probably won’t have to worry about being run around the park as they were for the first 40 minutes in Llanelli, but that defeat was a concern in itself.

Relying on the kicking of Leigh Halfpenny, which was a little off on Sunday, and the size of the ball-carriers, seems a foolish strategy against Montpellier’s giants. It’s up to Mike Ford to show he has a little more in his locker for Mourad Boudjellal’s team.
The teams:

Montpellier: 15 Joffrey Michel, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Joseph Tomane, 12 Alexandre Dumoulin, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 François Steyn, 9 Nic White, 8 Kélian Galletier, 7 Wian Liebenberg, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5 Antoine Battut, 4 Konstantin Mikautadze, 3 Antoine Guillamon, 2 Shalva Mamukashvili, 1 Gregory Fichten
Replacements: 16 Romain Ruffenach, 17 Yvan Watremez, 18 Julien Delannoy, 19 Pierre Spies, 20 Cameron Wright, 21 Henry Immelman, 22 Demetri Catrakilis, 23 Jannie du Plessis

Toulon: 15 Ayumu Goromaru, 14 Axel Muler, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 James O'Connor, 11 Jimmy Yobo, 10 Pierre Bernard, 9 Eric Escande, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, 6 Liam Gill, 5 Andries Ferreira, 4 Jocelino Suta, 3 Levan Chilachava, 2 Jean Charles Orioli, 1 Florian Fresia
Replacements: 16 Badri Alkhazashvili, 17 Laurent Delboulbes, 18 Romain Taofifenua, 19 Samu Manoa, 20 Anthony Belleau, 21 Vincent Clerc, 22 Sébastien Tillous-Borde, 23 Marcel van der Merwe

Last year’s result: Montpellier won 36-21
Kick-off: 21:00 local (20:00 GMT)
Referee: Mathieu Raynal