Top 14 Preview: Round Four

Date published: September 14 2018

Clermont Auvergne remain the only team in the Top 14 with a 100 per cent record and they will look to continue that fine form at Pau this weekend.

Toulouse are also undefeated, however, having drawn against Lyon in the opening round and Les Rouge et Noir will attempt to keep that record intact against Racing 92 in the standout match on Saturday.

On Sunday, Perpignan visit La Rochelle looking to win their first Top 14 encounter for four years, while Stade Francais host Toulon in what should be an enthralling contest.

Lyon vs Montpellier
Agen vs Bordeaux-Bègles
Castres vs Grenoble
Pau vs Clermont Auvergne
Toulouse vs Racing 92

La Rochelle vs Perpignan
Stade Francais vs Toulon

Lyon vs Montpellier
Matmut Stadium de Gerland

After getting their campaign up and running with a triumph over La Rochelle in Round Two, Montpellier followed that up with a creditable draw at Bordeaux.

They will therefore attempt to take that momentum into their encounter against Lyon, but Pierre Mignoni’s men will present mightily stern opposition.

It was a slightly inauspicious start from last season’s fifth place finishers, after failing to overcome Toulouse and going down to Castres a week later, but a narrow victory over Perpignan moved them up to ninth in the table.

It is a tough game to call but, with home advantage, Mignoni’s charges will think that they can make it successive victories.

Last season’s result: Lyon won 32-24
Kick-off: 14:45 local (12:45 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite
Assistant referees: Maxime Chalon, Arnaud Blondel
TMO: Eric Gonthier

Agen vs Bordeaux-Bègles
Stade Armandie

Similar to Lyon and Montpellier, who have exactly the same record as Bordeaux, Rory Teague’s outfit have endured an inconsistent opening.

They showed their credentials with a dominant victory over Pau in Round One but have not won since then. UBB succumbed to Stade before drawing with Montpellier and will look to get back on track this weekend against Agen.

Philippe Sella’s men have been pretty dreadful on their travels so far this season but were triumphant in their only home match, defeating Perpignan at the Stade Armandie.

If Bordeaux have genuine ambitions of reaching the play-offs in 2018/19, these are the matches where they should emerge victorious, but Agen will believe that this is a winnable encounter.

Last season’s result: Bordeaux won 15-10
Kick-off: 18:00 local (16:00 GMT)
Referee: Cyril Lafon
Assistant referees: Mathieu Noirot, Thierry Guilloton
TMO: Mourad Zitouni

Castres vs Grenoble
Stade Pierre-Fabre

Three games, two bonus-points for Grenoble, but the all-important victory remains elusive and they now head to defending champions Castres.

Most expected Perpignan to be the better of the two newly-promoted outfits, but so far it is the Stade des Alpes side that have been the more competitive.

They could have beaten both Toulouse and Pau, while they only succumbed to La Rochelle by seven points in Round One, but ultimately it is about results and they have yet to taste success.

It is highly unlikely to come at the Stade Pierre-Fabre on Saturday, particularly with Christophe Urios’ men enjoying a good start to the campaign, so expect the hosts to win comfortably.

Last season’s result: Did not play
Kick-off: 18:00 local (16:00 GMT)
Referee: Julien Castaignede
Assistant referees: Jonathan Dufort, Jacques de Lemos
TMO: Laurent Sclafer

Pau vs Clermont
Stade du Hameau

At the moment, it is hard to look beyond Clermont. They have begun this campaign outstandingly and have yet to score fewer than 40 points in a match after their 42-20 thrashing of Stade Francais last weekend.

That followed a 67-23 triumph over Agen and a hugely impressive 40-17 win against Stade’s Parisian rivals, Racing 92, at the U Arena.

Pau have enough ability to halt the Auvergne juggernaut and have done well to recover from their Round One disappointment, where they were overwhelmed by Bordeaux, but Franck Azema’s men are currently the best team in France.

Simon Mannix’s charges did emerge victorious in the corresponding fixture last year but Les Jaunards appear a revitalised side this season.

Last season’s result: Pau won 22-21
Kick-off: 18:00 local (16:00 GMT)
Referee: Thomas Charabas
Assistant referees: Tual Trainini, Richard Duhau
TMO: Eric Briquet-Campin

Toulouse vs Racing 92
Stade Ernest-Wallon

The game of the day on Saturday sees two giants of the French game go head-to-head as Toulouse look to maintain their unbeaten start to the campaign.

Although Les Rouge et Noir reside one place below Racing 92 in the table, they will arguably be more content with their first three matches.

While the Parisians were excellent in dispatching Toulon in the opening round, they were shocked a week later by Clermont Auvergne, who dominated from the kick-off, and handed them their first ever defeat at the U Arena.

Racing did respond well by thrashing Agen but Ugo Mola’s men, who drew with Lyon and beat Grenoble and La Rochelle, will expect to make it three victories in a row.

Last season’s result: Toulouse won 42-27
Kick-off: 20:45 local (18:45 GMT)
Referee: Adrien Descottes
Assistant referees: Thierry Mallet, Sebastien Hebert
TMO: Sebastien Minery

La Rochelle vs Perpignan
Stade Marcel-Deflandre

A match between two sides still finding their feet this season, although for slightly differing reasons. For Perpignan, it already appears that a campaign of struggle beckons, while the hosts, who harbour play-off ambitions, are still coming to terms with a change in coaching staff.

Patrice Collazo’s departure has left a void until November, when replacement Jono Gibbes joins from Waikato, and they are struggling for fluency.

They ended the game well against Toulouse last weekend and will look to take that momentum into Sunday, where the league leaders from the 2017 campaign will be expected to dispatch the newly-promoted outfit.

Last season’s result: Did not play
Kick-off: 12:30 local (10:30 GMT)
Referee: Pierre Brousset
Assistant referees: Ludovic Cayre, Laurent Breil
TMO: Denis Grenouillet

Stade Francais vs Toulon
Stade Jean-Bouin

One bonus-point victory may only be separating these two sides but, while those at Stade are positive following a solid start to the campaign, Toulon are struggling.

That frustration evidently got to Mathieu Bastareaud, who was sent-off against Castres for a nasty cheap shot on an opponent. They somehow escaped with a narrow 28-27 victory against the defending champions but new boss Patrice Collazo has not yet found the right formula.

In contrast, the Parisians seem revitalised, despite being outplayed by Clermont Auvergne last weekend, having secured impressive victories over Perpignan and Bordeaux.

At home, with the crowd buoyant and Collazo’s men not yet at their best, Stade should fancy themselves in the final game of Round Four.

Last season’s result: Toulon won 19-15
Kick-off: 16:50 local (14:50 GMT)
Referee: Mathieu Raynal
Assistant referees: Vincent Blasco-Baque, Bruno Gabaldon
TMO: Patrick Dellac