Top 14 Preview: Round 22

Date published: April 29 2016

As the Top 14 enters its final stretch there are a number of huge clashes that headline Round 22.

Kicking things off on Saturday Toulon will face Toulouse in a potential play-off dress rehearsal, before a few matches with big top six implications.

Castres will be after at least four points at home to Pau, while Brive can keep their play-off aspirations alive away to an Agen team who could be relegated if results go against them.

Challenge Cup semi-final duo Montpellier and Grenoble face off on their return to domestic action, while any slim hopes of Oyonnax staying up will require a win over La Rochelle.

The evening kick-off is huge for Bordeaux-Bègles, currently looking like they are on course for seventh for the second straight season. They host Stade Français.

And then on Sunday future Champions Cup finalists will host Top 14 leaders Clermont in the pick of the weekend.



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


Racing 92 v Clermont

Toulon v Toulouse
Allianz Riviera, Toulon

This fixture a year ago produced one of the more unlikely comebacks as Toulouse recovered from a disastrous first half to stun Toulon in Marseille.

That day Vincent Clerc gave David Smith all sorts of problems, but the Kiwi winger has moved on, while the rumour has it that the Frenchman could also be on the move soon.

Toulon don’t have a European final to focus on for the first time under Bernard Laporte, and will hope to use that to their advantage in the race for a top two spot.

To do so this is a game they really cannot afford to lose, but Toulouse have everything to play for as well as they try to avoid slipping out of the top six.

While Ugo Mola’s team have a good recent record against Toulon, they don’t quite look the force they were at the start of the season, and go into this one as underdogs.


Toulon: 15 Quade Cooper, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Maxime Mermoz, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 James O'Connor, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Eric Escande, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Mamuka Gorgodze, 3 Manasa Saulo Romumu, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Alexandre Menini
Replacements: 16 Jean Charles Orioli, 17 Xavier Chiocci, 18 Thibault Lassalle, 19 Juan Smith, 20 Mathieu Bastareaud, 21    Drew Mitchell, 22 Jonathan Pelissie, 23 Levan Chilachava

Toulouse: 15 Maxime Medard, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Yann David, 12 Florian Fritz, 11 Paul Perez, 10 Jean-Marc Doussain, 9 Sebastien Bezy, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Talalelei Gray, 6 Imanol Harinordoquy, 5 Joe Tekori, 4 Gregory Lamboley, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Christopher Tolofua, 1 Vasil Kakovin
Replacements: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Gurthro Steenkamp, 18 Edwin Maka, 19 Gillian Galan, 20 François Cros, 21 Luke McAlister, 22 Gael Fickou, 23 Dorian Aldegheri

Last year’s result: Toulouse won 34-24
Kick-off: 14:45 local (13:45 GMT)
Referee: Jérôme Garcès

Castres v Pau
Stade Pierre Antoine, Castres

Castres and Bordeaux are currently level on 53 points in the race for sixth, but Christophe Urios’ side look to be in much better position given their run-in.

Of course that’s only true if they can win the so-called ‘easy’ games, like Pau at home.

The teams should know each other well by now, they were drawn together in the same Challenge Cup pool so this is a fourth meeting of the season.

The record reads 2-1 to Castres so far, and on home soil they will expect to improve on it.

Their home form has generally been strong, including an all-important win over Toulouse, and another success would pile the pressure on those around them.


Castres: 15 Geoffrey Palis, 14 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 13 Florian Vialelle, 12 Remi Lamerat, 11 David Smith, 10 Ben Urdapilleta, 9 Antoine Dupont, 8 Alex Tulou, 7 Mathieu Babillot, 6 Alexandre Bias, 5 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Yohan Montes, 2 Marc-Antoine Rallier, 1 Mihai Lazar
Replacements: 16 Julien Beziat, 17 Antoine Tichit, 18 Christophe Samson, 19 Piula Faasalele, 20 Rory Kockott, 21 Julien Dumora, 22 Thomas Combezou, 23 Karena Wihongi

Pau: 15 Charly Malie, 14 Julien Fumat, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Jale Vatubua, 11    Bastien Pourailly, 10 Brandon Fajardo, 9 Thibault Daubagna, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Paddy Butler, 6 Loic Bernad, 5 Abdellatif Boutaty, 4 Daniel Ramsay, 3 Sylvain Charlet, 2 Thomas Bianchin, 1 Julien Jacquot
Replacements: 16 Mehdi Boundjema, 17 Jeremy Hurou, 18 Claude Dry, 19 Sean Dougall, 20 Thierry Lacrampe, 21 Damien Traille, 22 Mathieu Acebes, 23 Giorgi Natsarashvili

Previous result: Castres won 66-8 in 2005
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Adrien Descottes

Agen v Brive
Stade Armandie, Agen

Sitting 16 points from safety and with five games remaining, any hopes of survival are effectively gone in Agen as they prepare for a return to Pro D2.

They will still be hoping to pick up another win or two along the way though, and could almost fatally dent Brive’s play-off hopes with a success on Saturday.

They have certainly been better than their record suggests, with a number of heartbreaking losses, so a win wouldn’t come as a huge surprise.

With that said, they’ve also won just one league game since the turn of the year, so form isn’t exactly on their side.

Brive remain long shots for the top six, but a win would at least get them back in the mix.


Agen: 15 Mathieu Lamoulie, 14 George Tilsley, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Lionel Mazars, 11 Filipo Nakosi, 10 Burton Francis, 9 Paul Abadie, 8 Luke Hamilton, 7 Antoine Erbani, 6 Sione Tau, 5 Api Ratuniyarawa, 4 William Demotte, 3 Dave Ryan, 2 Jalil Narjissi, 1 Arsene Nnomo
Replacements: 16 Marc Barthomeuf, 17 Giorgi Tetrashvili, 18 Denis Marchois, 19 Remy Vaquin, 20 Clement Darbo, 21 Tamaz Mchedlidze, 22 Leka Tagotago, 23 Arthur Joly

Brive: 15 Gaetan Germain, 14 Alfi Mafi, 13 Chris Tuatara-Morrison, 12 Benjamin Petre, 11 Guillaume Namy, 10 Thomas Laranjeira, 9 Teddy Iribaren, 8 Sisa Koyamaibole, 7 Poutasi Luafutu, 6 Petrus Gherardus Hauman, 5 Dominiko Waqaniburotukula, 4 Johan Snyman, 3 Damien Jourdain, 2 Guillaume Ribes, 1 Karlen Asieshvili
Replacements: 16 Francois Da Ros, 17 Lucas Pointud, 18 Victor Lebas, 19 Said Hireche, 20 Jean-Baptiste Pejoine, 21 Nicolas Bezy, 22 Arnaud Mignardi, 23 Kevin Buys

Previous result: Agen won 15-9 in 2011
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Mathieu Raynal

Montpellier v Grenoble
Altrad Stadium, Montpellier

There were differing outlooks for these two after their Challenge Cup semi-finals, Grenoble suffocated by Harlequins in the rain before Montpellier did the suffocating to Newport on Saturday.

Given Montpellier’s depth, more of the same seems likely this weekend, and Jake White’s team can keep the pressure on for a home semi-final, having now won seven straight since a shock loss to Pau in February.

Grenoble would appear to have little to play for, with a play-off spot probably out of reach, but they have a number of players who will be keen to prove a point to Guy Novès before the summer tour.


Montpellier: 15    Benjamin Fall, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13    Anthony Tuitavake, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Marvin O'Connor, 10 Frans Steyn, 9 Nic White, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Wian Liebenberg, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5 Thibault Privat, 4 Jacques Du Plessis, 3 Davit Kubriashvili, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili
Replacements: 16 Mickael Ivaldi, 17 Yvan Watremez, 18 Robins Tchale-Watchou, 19 Kelian Galletier, 20 Benoit Paillaugue, 21 Anthony Floch, 22 Julien Malzieu, 23 Nicolas Mas

Grenoble: 15 Fabien Gengenbacher, 14 Lucas Dupont, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Xavier Mignot, 11 Armand Batlle, 10 Gilles Bosch, 9 James Hart, 8 Dylan Hayes, 7 Fabien Alexandre, 6 Jonathan Best, 5 James Percival, 4 Thomas Jolmes, 3 Rossouw De Klerk, 2 Arnaud Heguy, 1 Fabien Barcella
Replacements: 16 Loick Jammes, 17 Denis Coulson, 18 Mathias Marie, 19 Steven Setephano, 20 Lilian Saseras, 21 Clement Gelin, 22 Daniel Kilioni, 23 Walter Desmaison

Last year’s result: Montpellier won 20-17
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Cedric Marchat

Oyonnax v La Rochelle
Stade Charles Mathon, Oyonnax

Oyonnax announced ten new signings for next season this week, and while they will likely be playing in Pro D2, they bode well for an immediate return.

Jamie Cudmore is probably the headline act, and certainly has the fire needed for France’s second flight, but there were other promising additions.

Luc Barba, the promising Racing back row is another, while La Rochelle have also seen the value in the Parisians’ youth system by snapping up Arthur Retière, the hugely promising scrum-half.

That’s all next season though, there is an important game on Saturday first. Oyonnax need a win if they are to stay in the hunt for survival, while a La Rochelle win would keep them in top six contention.


Oyonnax: 15 Florian Denos, 14 Dug Codjo, 13 Alaska Taufa, 12 Roimata Hansell-Pune, 11 Uwanakaro Tawalo, 10 Quentin Etienne, 9 Julien Blanc, 8 Viliami Ma'afu, 7 Pierrick Gunther, 6 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 5 Geoffrey Fabbri, 4 Leon Power, 3 Marc Clerc, 2 Jeremie Maurouard, 1 Lukas Rapant
Replacements: 16 Thomas Bordes, 17 Soane Tonga'uiha, 18 Shay Kerry, 19 Bilel Taieb, 20 Fabien Cibray, 21 Lucas Chouvet, 22 Jimmy Yobo, 23 Antoine Guillamon

La Rochelle: 15 Pierre Berard, 14 Elliot Roudil, 13 Alofa Alofa, 12 Pierre Aguillon, 11 Gabriel Lacroix, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Julien Audy, 8 Kevin Gourdon, 7 Jason Eaton, 6 Romain Sazy, 5 Leandro Cedaro, 4 Mathieu Tanguy, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Benjamin Geledan, 1 Mike Corbel
Replacements: 16 Hikairo Forbes, 17 Thomas Synaeghel, 18 Jone Qovu Nailiko, 19 Zeno Kieft, 20 Afaesetiti Amosa, 21 Ricky Januarie, 22 Anthony Fuertes, 23 David Fe'ao

Last year’s result: Oyonnax won 37-9
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Maxime Chalon

Bordeaux-Bègles v Stade Français
Matmut Atlantique, Bordeaux

A year ago Jules Plisson’s late drop goal gave Stade Français a stunning win at Bordeaux on their way to the Top 14 title.

There will be no repeat this time around as Stade deal with a nightmare season that might as well be over now.

For Bordeaux however, there is everything to play for in the final weeks and the race for the play-offs, even if their schedule is very tough.

They simply have to win this one in the new football stadium, even if a few wins on the road will be needed to overhaul Castres or Toulouse.

If they don’t make it? Well the likes of Baptiste Serin, Yann Lesgourgues and Louis Benoit Madaule will surely get their chance in Argentina this summer.


Bordeaux-Bègles: 15 Metuisela Talebula Maijaina, 14 Sofiane Guitoune, 13 Jean-Baptiste Dubie, 12 Julien Rey, 11 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Heini Adams, 8 Loann Goujon, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Louis-Benoit Madaule, 5 Jan Andre Marais, 4 Julien Ledevedec, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Clement Maynadier, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16 Benat Auzqui, 17 Sebastien Taofifenua, 18 Cyril Cazeaux, 19 Matthew Clarkin, 20 Gauthier Doubrere, 21 Pierre Bernard, 22 Romain Lonca, 23 Francisco Gomez Kodela

Stade Français: 15 Hugo Bonneval, 14 Julien Arias, 13 Waisea Nayacalevu Vuidravuwalu, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Jeremy Sinzelle, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Clement Daguin, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Sylvain Nicolas,6 Antoine Burban, 5 Paul Gabrillagues, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Laurent Sempere, 1 Zak Taulafo
Replacements: 16 Remy Bonfils, 17 Zurab Zhvania, 18 Pascal Pape, 19 Jono Ross, 20 Julien Tomas, 21 Jules Plisson, 22 Jonathan Danty, 23 Rabah Slimani

Last year’s result: Stade Français won 23-22
Kick-off: 20:45 local (19:45 GMT)
Referee: Laurent Cardona

Racing 92 v Clermont
Stade Yves du Manoir, Colombes

Despite a few scary moments, particularly after Juan Imhoff’s disallowed try, Racing are in their first European final. Now they have to back it up against leaders Clermont, the best away team in the league.

That won’t be easy, and les Jaunards look a formidable opponent just now, particularly with an extra week of rest.

Racing’s home form has not been flawless, but if they want to stay in with a chance of a home semi, they have to win this one.

If Clermont can nick another on the road though? Well they’ll take yet another step towards top spot in the regular season and perhaps a second Bouclier de Brennus.

Let’s just hope this one stays in a better state than the last Bouclier won in the Auvergne! (link to Chamalières)

Last year’s result: The teams drew 13-13
Kick-off: 16:15 local (15:15 GMT)
Referee: Salem Attalah