Top 14 Preview: Round Ten

Date published: December 4 2015

Clermont suffered their biggest home defeat in decades last week and will likely have lost top spot before their derby clash with Brive on Sunday.

In-form Racing 92 kick things off away at Pau on Friday night, with Colin Slade in line for his debut off the bench.

On Saturday a buoyant Toulon welcome Agen before some intriguing late afternoon games including Castres hosting Montpellier.

La Rochelle welcome Grenoble and Stade Français entertain Bordeaux-Bègles.

Finally on Saturday evening Toulouse will hope to get back to winning ways against an Oyonnax side in disarray.


Pau 15-15 Racing 92

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

Brive v Clermont

Toulon v Agen
Stade Felix Mayol, Toulon

Questions were asked of Toulon after their loss at Wasps in the Champions Cup, but they responded in style with a stunning win at the Stade Marcel Michelin.

Drew Mitchell's try was the cherry on the cake and with more talent still to come back, Bernard Laporte's side look to be favourites for the title again.

Matt Giteau played at ten in that game, and he is arguably Toulon's most important player at the moment as Fred Michalak faces an uncertain future and Quade Cooper tries to adapt to the Top 14.

But with their depth up front and added ballast in the back row from the likes of Duane Vermeulen, Toulon should be way too strong for Agen.

The promoted side will really feel they should have won last week's game at home to Castres, as they let a late lead slip, and already they look to be in a relegation dog fight.

They are probably better than their results so far indicate, but anything other than a Toulon victory with a bonus point would be a surprise. 

Toulon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 James O'Connor, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Eric Escande, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, 6 Mamuka Gorgodze, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Levin Chilachava, 2 Anthony Etrillard, 1 Florian Fresia
Replacements: 16 Guihelm Guirado, 17 Xavier Chiocci, 18 Konstantin Mikautadze, 19 Steffon Armitage, 20 Quade Cooper, 21 Bryan Habana, 22 Anthony Meric, 23 Matt Stevens

Agen: 15 Mathieu Lamoulie, 14 Tamaz Mchedlidze, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Julien Heriteau, 11 Georges Tilsley, 10 Burton Francis, 9 Alexi Balès, 8 Luke Hamilton, 7 Antoine Erbani, 6 Remy Vaquin, 5 William Demotte, 4 Marco Kotze, 3 Dave Ryan, 2 Mike Tadjer, 1 Arsene Nnomo

Replacements: 16 Djalil Narjissi, 17 Viliamu Afatia, 18 Api Ratuniyarawa, 19 Sione Tau, 20 Apisai Naikatini, 21 Clement Darbo, 22 Julien Fouyssac, 23 Ruaan du Preez

Previous result: Toulon won 43-21 in 2013
Kick-off: 14:45 local (13:45 GMT)
Referee: Laurent Cardona

Castres v Montpellier
Stade Pierre Antoine, Castres

Two winners from last weekend face off at Pierre Antoine, with neither entirely convincing in victory.

Montpellier struggled past La Rochelle on the Friday, with Castres doing similar at Agen the next day. Jake White's team are much better placed in the table though, seven points clear of Castres and in the final play-off spot.

The concern is their defence, with only three teams having conceded more points, but the arrival of the Du Plessis brothers this week was a boost.

Whether that will be enough to pick up a win at Castres is another question. Christophe Urios' side have lost just once at home this season, and that involved a first-half red card.

Their recent record against Montpellier is also good with six wins in the last seven meetings between the teams.

Castres: 15 Geoffrey Palis, 14 Julien Caminati, 13 Thomas Combezou, 12 Rémi Lamerat, 11 David Smith, 10 Christophe Dumora, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Alex Tulou, 7 Alexandre Bias, 6 Piula Fa'asalele, 5 Richie Gray, 4 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 3 Karena Wihongi, 2 Brice Mach, 1 Mihai Lazar
Replacements: 16 Marc-Antoine Rallier, 17 Yohan Montès, 18 Christophe Samson, 19 Johnnie Beattie, 20 Antoine Dupont, 21 Romain Martial, 22 Florian Vialelle, 23 Saimone Taumoepeau

Montpellier: 15 Benjamin Fall, 14 Jesse Mogg, 13 Timoci Nagusa, 12 Julien Malzieu, 11 Marvin O'Connor, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic White, 8 Akapusi Qera, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Antoine Battut, 5 Robins Tchale-Watchou, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Charles Geli, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Jamie Mackintosh, 18 Thibault Privat, 19 Kélian Galletier, 20 Benôit Paillaugue, 21 Ben Lucas, 22 Robert Ebersohn, 23 Pat Cilliers

Last year's result: Castres won 27-9
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Thomas Charabas

La Rochelle v Grenoble
Stade Marcel Deflandre, La Rochelle

It's been a tough week for Grenoble, who lost at home to Stade Français on Sunday and then fired forwards coach Sylvain Bégon in response.

With former international hookers Fabrice Landreau and Bernard Jackman on the books, they aren't short of experience in the coaching department, but it will be interesting to see how they respond.

Their scrum has been a problem, and La Rochelle come into the game in decent form up front.

In Kevin Gourdon they have an outstanding number eight, and the versatile back-rower could yet force his way into Guy Novès' plans if he continues to perform as he has in recent weeks.

For Patrice Collazo's team, this is a must-win game as they look to stretch away from what could become a three-team relegation battle.

La Rochelle: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Gabriel Lacroix, 13 Charles Bouldoire, 12 Levani Botia, 11 Alex Northam, 10 Zach Holmes, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Kevin Gourdon, 7 Jone Qovu, 6 Afa Amosa, 5 Romana Graham, 4 Jason Eaton, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Maxime Gau, 1 Vincent Pelo
Replacements: 16 Benjamin Geledan, 17 Thomas Synaeghel, 18 Leandro Cedaro, 19 Romain Sazy, 20 Zeno Kieft, 21 Jules Lebail, 22 Eliot Roudil, 23 Gagi Bazadze

Grenoble: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Lucas Dupont, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Xavier Mignot, 10 Jonathan Wisniewski, 9 Christophe Loustalot, 8 Rory Grice, 7 Mahamadou Diaby, 6 Peter Kimlin, 5 Hendrik Roodt, 4 Ben Hand, 3 Roussow De Klerk, 2 Antoine Hegarty, 1 Sona Taumalolo.

Replacements: 16 Arnaud Heguy, 17 Fabien Barcella, 18 Jonathan Best, 19 Stephen Setephano, 20 Lilian Saseras, 21 Fabrice Estebanez, 22 Nigel Hunt, 23 Dayna Edwards

Last year's result: La Rochelle won 19-15
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Tual Trainini

Stade Français v Bordeaux-Bègles
Stade Jean Bouin, Paris

Jules Plisson's dead-eye kicking offered a vital away win to Stade Français at Grenoble last week but they need to back it up at home to Bordeaux.

UBB were rampant for almost the first time this season in their 46-10 win over Pau, with scrum-half Yann Lesgourgues scoring a hat-trick.

It will have come as a relief to president Laurent Marti, who has seen his side struggle to recreate the attacking form that made them so great to watch last season.

They still have work to do to prove that they can be an attacking force over the long term, but between Lesgourgues and Baptiste Serin, they have a promising half-back pairing.

Stade are also starting to hit their stride as their internationals bed back in, but after a disastrous start to the season, they have to keep winning to get back in the play-off hunt.

Stade Français: 15 Hugo Bonneval, 14 Jeremy Sinzelle, 13 Waisale Nayacalevu, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Djibril Camara, 10 Jules Plisson, 9 Will Genia, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Raphael Lakafia, 6 Jono Ross, 5 Pascal Papé, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Laurent Sempere, 1 Sakaria Taulafo
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Heinke van der Merle, 18 Paul Gabrillagues, 19 Willem Alberts, 20 Julien Tomas, 21 Morné Steyn, 22 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 23 Rabah Slimani

Bordeaux-Bègles: 15 Nans Ducuing, 14 Metuisela Talebula, 13 Sofiane Guitoune, 12 Julien Rey, 11 Blair Connor, 10 Baptiste Serin, 9 Yann Lesgourgues, 8 Marco Tauleigne, 7 Loann Goujon, 6 Louis Benoit Madaule, 5 Jandre Marais, 4 Julien Ledevedec, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Wayne Avei, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16 Benat Auzqui, 17 Jefferson Poirot, 18 Berend Botha, 19 Hugh Chalmers, 20 Heini Adams, 21 Simon Hickey, 22 Felix Le Bourhis, 23 Sekope Kepu

Last year's result: Stade won 39-22
Kick-off: 18:30 local (17:30 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite

Toulouse v Oyonnax
Stade Ernest Wallon, Toulouse

A huge home loss to Brive showed that all is not right at Oyonnax, and the bottom side in the Top 14 travel to Toulouse desperately low on confidence.

They've won just one match since August, but at least have a reasonable record at Toulouse.

Even during this rough patch, they came close to an upset when the two teams met in Europe a fortnight ago, while last season they twice lost by a single point at Ernest Wallon.

Ugo Mola's men are going through something of a sticky spell of their own, and came away with nothing in an entertaining game at Racing.

Add to that their laboured start to their European campaign, and the new coach is experiencing his first real difficulties since taking over this season.

Despite their recent record, a home game against Oyonnax should help, even with the appointment of new coach Johann Authier.

It's also worth pointing out that no team has managed even a losing bonus point at Toulouse this season and that record may well continue.

Toulouse: 15 Clément Poitrenaud, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Toby Flood, 12 Florian Fritz, 11 Arthur Bonneval, 10 Luke McAlister, 9 Nicolas Bézy, 8 Imanol Harinordoquy, 7 Tala Gray, 6 Thierry Dusautoir, 5 Joe Tekori, 4 Romain Millo-Chluski, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Vasil Kakovin
Replacements: 16 Julien Marchand, 17 Cyril Baille, 18 Dorian Aldegheri, 19 Edwin Maka, 20 Yacouba Camara, 21 GIllian Galan, 22 David Mélé, 23 Alexis Palisson

Oyonnax: 15 Quentin Etienne, 14 Alaska Taufa, 13 Guillaume Bousses, 12 Vincent Martin, 11 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 10 Régis Lespinas, 9 Fabien Cibray, 8 Viliami Ma’afu, 7 Pedrie Wannenburg, 6 Pierrick Gunther, 5 Fabrice Metz, 4 George Robson, 3 Antoine Guillamon, 2 Jéremie Maurouard, 1 Soane Tonga'uiha
Replacements: 16 Jenneker, 17 Stan Wright, 18 Leon Power, 19 Guillaume Bernad, 20 Julien Blanc, 21 Rory Clegg, 22 Keziah Giordano, 23 Horatiu Pungea

Last year's result: Toulouse won 20-19
Kick-off: 20:45 local (19:45 GMT)
Referee: Adrien Descottes

Brive v Clermont
Stade Amédée Domenech, Brive

Depending on results elsewhere, Brive could finish the weekend as unlikely Top 14 leaders, but host a Clermont side desperate for a response in the derby.

The humbling loss to Toulon last week led to Franck Azéma questioning how certain teams stay under the salary cap, but he will also have been questioning how his team were so comprehensively outplayed on home soil.

Losing both fly-halves didn't help, but doesn't explain all their problems, and it doesn't get easier with a trip to Brive.

Nicolas Godignon's side cruised to victory at Oyonnax, and in GaÎtan Germain have one of the league's in-form players.

Arguably the best goal-kicker in the Top 14, he's shown this season that he is also quite a counter-attacking threat.

Whether that will be on show against Clermont is a different question, but he will certainly punish any indiscipline.

Brive: tbc

Clermont: tbc

Last year's result: 21-6
Kick-off: 16:15 local (15:15 GMT)
Referee: Jérôme Garcès