Top 14 Preview: Round 24

Date published: May 20 2016

With just three rounds to go, six matches on Saturday and one on Sunday, there is everything to play for in the Top 14 when it comes to the play-off race.

Agen might be relegated but they kick things off against Toulon in a huge game before Castres host La Rochelle.

Champions Cup runners-up Racing 92 will lick their wounds against Pau and relegated Oyonnax host Toulouse.

Brive entertain Grenoble before a tantalizing battle between Montpellier and Bordeaux-Bègles in Saturday’s final game.

And on Sunday we have a repeat of last year’s Top 14 final as Clermont host Stade Français.


Agen v Toulon
Castres v La Rochelle
Racing 92 v Pau
Oyonnax v Toulouse
Brive v Grenoble
Montpellier v UBB

Clermont v Stade Français

Agen v Toulon
Stade Armandie, Agen

Agen had their relegation confirmed last time out against Toulouse, and face another heavyweight this weekend at Armandie.

Toulon can still sneak into the top two with a strong finish to the season, and helped their cause with victory over Castres two weeks ago.

They will be grateful to have Matt Giteau back fit again, after he was a late withdrawal from the Castres game, but it’s not all good news from an Australian perspective.

Drew Mitchell’s season is over after he underwent surgery, although in Josua Tuisova and James O’Connor, Toulon aren’t lacking for high quality wingers.

Agen: 15 George Tilsley, 14 Leka Tagotago, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Eroni Vasiteri, 11 Tamaz Mchedlidze, 10 François Bouvier, 9 Clément Darbo, 8 Marc Baget-Rabarou, 7 Antoine Erbani, 6 Remy Vaquin, 5 Api Ratuniyarawa, 4 Marco Kotze, 3 Dave Ryan, 2 Jalil Narjissi, 1 Arsene Nnomo
Replacements: 16 Marc Barthomeuf, 17 Giorgi Tetrashvili, 18 Denis Marchois, 19 Sione Tau, 20 Paul Abadie, 21 Burton Francis,
22 Benoit Sicart, 23 Arthur Joly

Toulon: 15 Quade Cooper, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 James O'Connor, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Jonathan Pélissié, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, 6 Juan Smith, 5 Konstantin Mikautadze, 4 Mamuka Gorgodze, 3 Levan Chilachava, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Xavier Chiocci
Replacements: 16 Jean Charles Orioli, 17 Florian Fresia, 18 Romain Taofifénua, 19 Charles Ollivon, 20 Theo Belan, 21 Frédéric Michalak, 22 Eric Escande, 23 Manasa Saulo

Previous result: Toulon won 15-9 in 2012
Kick-off: 14:30 local (13:30 GMT)
Referee: Cyril Lafon

Castres v La Rochelle
Stade Pierre Antoine, Castres

Castres are on the outside looking in as it stands in the play-off race but given their run-in, they will fancy their chances of creeping into the top six.

They’ll need to beat La Rochelle this weekend, but it won’t be easy with Les Maritimes still in with an outside chance of cracking the top six themselves.

Still, under Christophe Urios Castres look very much like Oyonnax a year ago, so difficult to beat and constantly keeping the scoreboard ticking over through the metronomic Benjamin Urdapilleta.

Add in the likes of Sitiveni Sivivatu and David Smith out wide and they will be very dangerous if they make it into the play-offs.

La Rochelle have some threats of their own, not least Gabriel Lacroix, who could well be part of the French squad in Argentina this summer.

Castres: 15 Geoffrey Palis, 14 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 13 Thomas Combezou, 12 Rémi Lamerat, 11 David Smith, 10 Benjamín Urdapilleta, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Alex Tulou, 7 Piula Faasalele, 6 Alexandre Bias, 5 Rodrigo Ortega, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Karena Wihongi, 2 Marc-Antoine Rallier, 1 Mihai Laz%u0103r
Replacements: 16 Brice Mach, 17 Saimone Taumoepeau, 18 Christophe Samson, 19 Mathieu Babillot, 20 Julien Seron, 21 Julien Dumora, 22 Rudi Wulf, 23 Eric Sione

La Rochelle: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Gabriel Lacroix, 13 Zack Holmes, 12 Pierre Aguillon, 11 SaofaI Alofa Alofa, 10 Fabien Fortassin, 9 Enrico Januarie, 8 Kevin Gourdon, 7 Afaesetiti Amosa, 6 Zeno Kieft, 5 Leandro Luis Cedaro, 4 Mathieu Tanguy, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Hikairo Forbes, 1 Mike Corbel
Replacements: 16 Benjamin Geledan, 17 Thomas Synaeghel, 18 Damien Lagrange, 19 Albain Meron, 20 Julien Audy, 21 Ryan Dubois, 22 Ratu Alipate Ratini, 23 Lekso Kaulashvili

Last year’s result: Castres won 30-15
Kick-off: 15:00 local (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Sébastien Minery

Racing 92 v Pau
Stade Yves du Manoir, Colombes

Racing 92 had a horrible time in Lyon last week, the loss of their half-backs proving too much to overcome against Saracens.

Maxime Machenaud, who went off after 20 minutes is not available as he goes through the return to play protocol, while Dan Carter is also absent after playing on one leg for an hour last Saturday.

Mike Phillips and Rémi Talès aren’t a bad pair to replace them and there is plenty of quality sprinkled through the team.

Pau have little left to play for, but their young French half-back pairing of Thibault Daubagna and Brandon Fajardo should be worth watching.

Racing 92: 15 Johannes Goosen, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Henry Chavancy, 11 Marc Andreu, 10 Rémi Talès, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Antonie Claassen, 7 Bernard Le Roux, 6 Chris Masoe, 5 Manuel Carizza, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Luc Ducalcon, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Eddy Ben Arous
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Julien Brugnaut, 18 Ross Ami Filipo, 19 Juandré Kruger, 20 Xavier Chauveau, 21 Brice Dulin,
22 Albert James Vulivuli, 23 Ben Tameifuna 

Pau: 15 Charly Malie, 14 Mathieu Acebes, 13 Julien Fumat, 12 Watisoni Votu, 11 Bastien Pourailly, 10 Brandon Fajardo, 9 Thibault Daubagna, 8 Brice Monzeglio, 7 Joseva Ulago Domolailai, 6 Sean Dougall, 5 Abdellatif Boutaty, 4 Cameron Pierce, 3 Sylvain Charlet, 2 Mehdi Boundjema, 1 Jeremy Hurou
Replacements: 16 Thomas Bianchin, 17 Julien Jacquot, 18 Claude Dry, 19 Giovanni Kueffner, 20 Samuel Marques, 21 Antoine Hastoy, 22 Mosese Ratuvou, 23 Matthew Tierney

Previous result: Racing won 28-10 in 2009 in Pro D2
Kick-off: 15:00 local (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Mathieu Raynal

Oyonnax v Toulouse
Stade Charles Mathon 

Oyonnax’s time in the Top 14 is coming to an end, but they have already set their sights on an instant return.

Their battles with Toulouse have been very tight since promotion, and Ugo Mola’s side will travel with trepidation to Charles Mathon, a ground where they have already lost once this season.

It’s been a tumultuous week for the French giants, with news that Vincent Clerc will leave at the end of the season after not being offered a new contract.

He is set to join Toulon, while Imanol Harinordoquy also confirmed that he will be retiring at the end of the campaign.

When that will be depends on the final few weeks of the season, with Toulouse still in the hunt for a home barrage.

Oyonnax: 15 Quentin Etienne Lecoq, 14 Dug Codjo, 13 Jimmy Yobo, 12 Eamonn Sheridan, 11 Uwanakaro Tawalo, 10 Nicholas John Robinson, 9 Julien Blanc, 8 Vili Ma'afu, 7 Olivier Missoup, 6 Pierrick Gunther, 5 Fabrice Metz, 4 Leon Power, 3 Stanley Wright, 2 Jeremie Maurouard, 1 Soane Tonga'uiha
Replacements: 16 Jody Jenneker, 17 Lukas Rapant, 18 Geoffrey Fabbri, 19 Florian Faure, 20 Regis Lespinas, 21 Guilliaume Bousses, 22 Alaska Nikolasi Taufa, 23 Giorgi Vepkhvadze

Toulouse: 15 Alexis Palisson, 14 Paul Perez, 13 Gael Fickou, 12 Florian Fritz, 11 Timoci Matanavou, 10 Charles Luke McAlister, 9 Sebastien Bezy, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Gillian Galan, 6 Talalelei Gray, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Gregory Lamboley, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Christopher-Eric Tolofua, 1 Gurthro Garth Steenkamp
Replacements: 16 Julien Marchand, 17 Vasil Kakovin, 18 Joseph Iosefa Tekori, 19 François Cros, 20 David Mele, 21 Tobias Gerald Albert Lieven Flood, 22 Yann David, 23 Dorian Aldegheri

Last year’s result: Oyonnax won 9-3
Kick-off: 15:00 local (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Adrien Descottes

Brive v Grenoble
Stade Amédée Domenech, Brive

Arguably the game with the least riding on it will see Brive host Grenoble at Amédée Domenech.

Still, a number of players on both sides will be looking to prove a point to Guy Novès before the tour to South America.

For Brive, Gaëtan Germain and Lucas Pointud are both contenders for the Argentina tour, with the former surely pencilled in already.

On the Grenoble side, there has been increasing talk of flanker Mahamadou Diaby getting the nod after an all-action season in the Alps.

Brive: 15 Gaëtan Germain, 14 Alfi Mafi, 13 Arnaud Mignardi, 12 Benjamin Petre, 11 Benito Masilevu, 10 Matthieu Ugalde, 9 Teddy Iribaren, 8 Sisa Koyamaibole, 7 Poutasi Luafutu, 6 Saïd Hirèche, 5 Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 4 Victor Lebas, 3 Damien Jourdain, 2 Thomas Acquier, 1 Lucas Pointud
Replacements: 16 Guillaume Ribes, 17 Karlen Asieshvili, 18 Jabez Wilhelmus Arnoldus Steenkamp, 19 William Whetton, 20 Jean-Baptiste Pejoine, 21 Thomas Laranjeira, 22 Sevenaia Galala, 23 Giorgi Jgenti

Grenoble: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Lucas Dupont, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Clement Gelin, 11 Lucas Dupont, 10 Gilles Bosch, 9 Lilian Saseras, 8 Rory Grice, 7 Mahamadou Diaby, 6 Dylan Hayes, 5 Thomas Jolmes, 4 Peter Kimlin, 3 Rossouw De Klerk, 2 Loick Jammes, 1 Sona Taumalolo
Replacements: 16 Arnaud Heguy, 17 Denis Coulson, 18 Mathias Marie, 19 Jonathan Best, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Fabien Gengenbacher, 22 Daniel Kilioni, 23 Dayna Edwards

Previous result: Brive won 23-0
Kick-off: 15:00 local (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Salem Attalah

Montpellier v Bordeaux-Bègles
Altrad Stadium, Montpellier

A first title came last week as Montpellier proved too big and too strong for Harlequins and they now have the target of a place in the semi-finals as a carrot.

Jake White might have transformed the club’s identity with his recruitment but Mohed Altrad won’t mind if the success follows.

In terms of sheer power up front, Montpellier look to be as well-stocked as any team in the league, and they will be tough to beat in the play-offs.

Bordeaux just want to get there, and they will remember last year’s loss at Montpellier when they failed to beat 14 men.

That ended up proving costly, and with an extremely tricky run-in, Raphael Ibanez’s team need at least one big away win to reach the top six.

Montpellier: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Anthony Tuitavke, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Marvin O’Connor, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Benoit Paillaugue, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Wian Liebenberg, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Jacques Du Plessis, 3 Jannie Du Plessis, 2 Bismarck Du Plessis, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili
Replacements: 16 Mickael Ivaldi, 17 Yvan Watremez, 18 Thibault Privat, 19 Kelian Galletier, 20 Nic White, 21 Benjamin Lucas, 22 Robert Ebersohn, 23 Nicolas Mas

UBB: 15 Nans Ducuing, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Jean-Baptiste Dubie, 12 Julien Rey, 11 Blair Connor, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Loann Goujon, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Louis-Benoit Madaule, 5 Jan Andre Marais, 4 Julien Ledevedec, 3 Francisco Kodela, 2 Clément Maynadier, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16 Benat Auzqui, 17 Sébastien Taofifenua, 18 Cyril Cazeaux, 19 Matthew Clarkin, 20 Heinrich Adams, 21 Lionel Beauxis, 22 Metuisela Talebula, 23 Jean-Baptiste Poux

Last year’s result: Montpellier won 34-24
Kick-off: 16:35 local (15:35 GMT)
Referee: Maxime Chalon

Clermont v Stade Français
Stade Marcel Michelin, Clermont-Ferrand

A rematch of last year’s final but two teams in very different circumstances this time around.

Stade’s season was saved a fortnight ago when they hammered Oyonnax to guarantee safety, but they effectively have nothing left to play for this season.

Clermont, meanwhile, can take another step towards finishing top of the pile, and will expect to do so on Sunday.

Franck Azéma’s team still have to prove they can overcome their play-off woes but in the regular season it’s hard to fault what they have achieved.

Clermont: tba

Stade Français: tba
Last year’s result: Clermont won 51-9
Kick-off: 16:15 local (15:15 GMT)
Referee: Cedric Marchat