Top 14 Preview: Round Three

Date published: September 5 2015

After two rounds the Top 14 table has a familiar look to it as Clermont, Racing 92 and Toulouse lead the way.

The major exception is Toulon, the triple European champions, who are languishing in 12th place and face a trip to the champions, Stade Français.

That is the second game on Sunday, with Bordeaux-Bègles hosting Montpellier in the afternoon in a mouthwatering double header.

On Saturday the local derby between Toulouse and Castres is the pick of the games, while leaders Clermont will want to make it three out of three away at Oyonnax.

Elsewhere Grenoble host Pau, while La Rochelle seek a first win of the campaign at home to Brive. And finally bottom-placed Agen host high-flying Racing.



Oyonnax v Clermont
Grenoble v Pau
La Rochelle v Brive
Agen v Racing 92
Toulouse v Castres


Bordeaux-Bègles v Montpellier
Stade Français v Toulon

Oyonnax v Clermont
Stade Charles Mathon, Oyonnax

Oyonnax made a flying start on their new artificial pitch last week as they comfortably beat Bordeaux-Bègles, however Clermont should provide an altogether sterner task.

New fly-half Nicky Robinson has taken to life in France like a duck to water, filling the big shoes of Benjamin Urdapilleta admirably so far. 

Despite the loss of some key players, the Oyo scrum looks as powerful as ever, while they looked comfortable on the faster surface at Charles Mathon.

As for Clermont, the final World Cup cuts have increased their options in the pack, with Sébastien Vahaamahina returning last week, and Flip van der Merwe set to arrive in the coming days after he missed out on the Springbok squad.

They were a touch disappointing against Grenoble last week, with far too many handling errors, however they still managed to come away with maximum points and are yet to concede a try.

They'll fancy their chances of making it three wins out of three this weekend, especially with Oyonnax missing tight five regulars Jody Jenneker, Marc Clerc and George Robson.

Oyonnax: 15 Florian Denos, 14 Dug Codjo, 13 Alaska nikolasi, 12 Eamonn Sheridan, 11 Silvere Tian, 10 Nick Robinson, 9 Fabien Cibray, 8 Florian Faure, 7 Olivier Missoup, 6 Pierrick Gunther, 5 Fabrice Metz, 4 George Robson, 3 Marc Clerc, 2 Thomas Bordes, 1 Laurent Delboulbes. 
Replacements: 16 Jeremie Maurouard, 17 Antoine Guillamon, 18 Mickael De Marco, 19 Pedrie Wannenburg, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Regis Lespinas, 22 Vincent Martin, 23 Stanley Wright.

Clermont: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 David Strettle, 13 Albert Vulivuli, 12 Hosea Gear, 11 Adrien Plante, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Jeanbaptiste Bruzulier, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Alexandre Lapandry, 6 Camille Gerondeau, 5 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 4 Loic Jacquet, 3 Daniel Kotze, 2 Marthinus Riann stefanus van der Westhuizen, 1 Raphael Chaume. 
Replacements: 16 Pierre Rude, 17 Thomas Domingo, 18 Paul Jedrasiak, 19 Judicael Cancoriet, 20 Charlie Cassang, 21 Patricio Fernandez Fiant, 22 Benson Stanley, 23 Clement Ric.

Last year's result: Clermont won 19-8
Kick-off: 14:35 local (12:35 GMT)
Referee: Cedric Marchat

Grenoble v Pau
Stade des Alpes, Grenoble

Grenoble were well-beaten at Clermont last week, but are an altogether different beast on home soil, as Pau should discover.

The Pro D2 champions picked up their first win of the season last time out against Montpellier, in a game that was marred by the racist abuse suffered by Montpellier's Fijian winger Timoci Nagusa.

The club have acted, the fan in question has had his season ticket cancelled and is banned from the ground indefinitely.

On the pitch it was a much better tale for Pau, although their indiscipline – six yellow cards in two games – remains an issue.

Against a Grenoble team that is capable of attacking from all over, that is a real concern, and Simon Mannix has warned his team that they can't afford to go down to 14 again.

Other than their indiscipline, it was a sharp performance against Montpellier, with Pau taking their chances thanks to the boot of Portuguese scrum-half Samuel Marques.

Grenoble, meanwhile, will be pleased to see Jonathan Wisniewski back again after missing the first two games of the season, but they lost flanker Henry Vanderglas for a number of months after he dislocated his knee.

Grenoble: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Xavier Mignot, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Nigel Hunt, 11 Armand Batlle, 10 Jonathan Wisniewski, 9 Charl Mcleod, 8 Rory Grice, 7 Jonathan Best, 6 Peter Kimlin, 5 Hendrik Roodt, 4 Benjamin Hand, 3 Dayna Edwards, 2 Arnaud Heguy, 1 Fabien Barcella. 
Replacements: 16 Anthony Hegarty, 17 Denis Coulson, 18 James Byron Percival, 19 Steven Miimetua Setephano, 20 Christophe Loustalot, 21 Fabien Gengenbacher, 22 Chris Farrell, 23 Walter Desmaison.

Pau: 15 Charly Malie, 14 Marika Vunibaka, 13 Julien Fumat, 12 Jale kaikadavu Vatubua, 11 Elijah elia Niko, 10 Santiago Fernandez, 9 Thierry Lacrampe, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Patrick Butler, 6 Josefa Domolailai, 5 Damien Fevre, 4 Cameron Pierce, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Vincent Campo Castillo, 1 Jeremy Hurou. 
Replacements: 16 Mehdi Boundjema, 17 Julien Jacquot, 18 Brice Monzeglio, 19 Jean Bouilhou, 20 Samuel Marques, 21 Brandon Fajardo, 22 Damien Traille, 23 Sylvain Charlet.

Previous result: Grenoble won 24-18 in 2011 in Pro D2
Kick-off: 16:00 local (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Maxime Chalon

La Rochelle v Brive
Stade Marcel Deflandre, La Rochelle

La Rochelle are still winless this season but they showed they won't be easy to beat with a narrow loss at Racing last Saturday.

Brive, meanwhile, took full advantage of Stade Français' prop woes to hammer the champions up front and record a first win of the season.

This weekend is already a must-win game for the home side, and you'd fancy them to do it if they play as they did in Paris last week. They dominated much of the game, but struggled to turn possession into points, before two missed drop goals at the death cost them the win.

Still, the fact that they were able to give Racing a real scare away from home bodes well going forward, and they will expect more of the same, rather than the limp effort that saw them hammered by Clermont in the last home game.

Brive never looked like losing to Stade, picking up penalties at virtually every scrum, but they will have been a little disappointed not to pick up a bonus point given the circumstances.

On the road Brive tend to struggle a little more though, and it would be a surprise to see them go and win at a La Rochelle side who desperately need a victory.

La Rochelle: 15 Benjamin Lapeyre, 14 Gabriel Lacroix, 13 Jean pascal Barraque, 12 Pierre Aguillon, 11 Malietoa Seuli Hingano, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Enrico Januarie, 8 Kevin Gourdon, 7 Zeno Kieft, 6 Romain Sazy, 5 Jone Qovu, 4 Romana Graham, 3 Lekso Kaulashvili, 2 David Roumieu, 1 Thomas Synaeghel.
Replacements: 16 Hikairo Forbes, 17 Jordan Seneca, 18 Damien Lagrange, 19 Mathieu Tangu, 20 Julien Audy, 21 Fabien Fortassin, 22 Alofa Alofa, 23 Vincent Pelo.

Brive: 15 Gaetan Germain, 14 Benito Masilevu, 13 Christopher Tuatara, 12 Matthieu Ugalde, 11 Elia Radikedike, 10 Thomas Laranjeira, 9 Teddy Iribaren, 8 Sisa Koyamaibole, 7 Said Hireche, 6 Petrus Hauman, 5 Peet Marais, 4 Victor Lebas, 3 Damien Jourdain, 2 Francois Da ros, 1 Lucas Pointud.
Replacements: 16 Thomas Acquier, 17 Saimone Taumoepeau, 18 Arnaud Mela, 19 Hugues Briatte, 20 Jean baptiste Pejoine, 21 Arnaud Mignardi, 22 Alfi Mafi, 23 Kevin Buys.

Last year's result: La Rochelle won 19-12
Kick-off: 16:00 local (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Salem Attalah

Agen v Racing 92
Stade Armandie, Agen

With two losses and no points, Agen are already stuck at the foot of the table, and it doesn't get any easier with Racing next on the menu.

The Parisians were far from convincing against La Rochelle, but have two wins in as many games to kick off the season.

Agen were actually much better than a 20-9 loss suggests, at home to Toulouse last time out, but their set-piece let them down.

While their scrum just about held up, a couple of messy lineouts allowed Cory Flynn to score twice and ended their chances of a first win.

Back row Luke Hamilton was probably their best player, and the young Welshman will hope for more of the same against Racing, who are missing back row Wenceslas Lauret.

One man who will feature for Racing is young hooker Camille Chat. After coming on early against La Rochelle, it was his ill-advised offload that led to the visitors' first try. He made up for it though, with a try of his own as well as one scorching break. Part of the U20s squad this year, he looks to have a great future ahead of him.

Agen: 15 Mathieu Lamoulie, 14 Ilaitia lekaiwala Tagotago, 13 Eroni vasiteri Narumasa, 12 Lionel Mazars, 11 George Tilsley, 10 Burton Francis, 9 Alexi Bales, 8 Luke John Hamilton, 7 Antoine Erbani, 6 Remi Vaquin, 5 William Demotte, 4 Tom Murday, 3 Ruaan du Preez, 2 Mike Tadjer, 1 Bernard N nomo.
Replacements: 16 Johannes Franklin, 17 Giorgi Tetrashvili, 18 Jean Baptiste Roidot, 19 Marc Baget rabarou, 20 Clement Darbo, 21 Bautista Eduardo Guemes, 22 Vincent Roux    22, 23 Arthur Joly.


Racing 92: 15 Sean jack Robinson, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Henry Chavancy, 11 Marc Andreu, 10 Benjamin Dambielle,  Maxime Machenaud, 8 Antonie Claassen, 7 Thibault Dubarry, 6 Chris Masoe, 5 Francois van der Merwe, 4 Ross Filipo, 3 Cedate Gomes sa, 2 Camille Chat, 1 Julien Brugnaut. 
Replacements: 16 Virgile Lacombe, 17 Davit Khinchagishvili, 18 Juandre Kruger, 19 Luc Barba, 20 Xavier Chauveau, 21 Etienne Dussartre, 22 Maxime Javaux, 23 Luc Ducalcon.

Previous result: Racing won 24-20 in 2012
Kick-off: 16:00 local (14:00 GMT)
Referee: Adrien Descottes

Toulouse v Castres
Stade Ernest Wallon, Toulouse

Castres' record at Toulouse is appalling but Ugo Mola's side will be taking nothing for granted against Christophe Urios' men.

Last year Urios twice came close to surprising Toulouse on home soil as the coach of Oyonnax, and judging by Castres' display against Toulon, it's already coming together at his new club.

The problem for Castres is that they've not won in Toulouse in the professional era, and the Toulon win came at a cost, losing prop Antoine Tichit.

The scrum was about the only area which failed them against the European champions, but that remains an area where Toulouse struggle to dominate.

Mola has got off to a winning start since replacing Novès, with some of the club's youngsters getting their opportunity in the opening weeks.

The win over Agen was more a victory for pragmatism than anything else, with Maxime Médard typifying that through his long kicking game, rather than his counter-attacking.

They will never be entirely conservative with the likes of Sébastien Bézy however, and the young scrum-half was given a vote of confidence by Mola this week, who stated that the youngster is first choice for the big games.

Between Bézy, Arthur Bonneval and Yacouba Camara, as well as tighthead Dorian Aldegheri, who signed a new deal this week, there is certainly a bright future for Toulouse, they just need to ensure the current winning streak continues against a tricky Castres side.

Toulouse: 15 Maxime Medard, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Yann David, 12 Toby Flood, 11 Arthur Bonneval, 10 Luke Mcalister, 9 Sebastien Bezy, 8 Gillian Galan, 7 Imanol Harinordoquy, 6 Yacouba Camara, 5 Patricio Albacete, 4 Romain Millo Chlusky, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Vasil Kakovin. 
Replacements: 16 Julien Marchand, 17 Cyril Baille, 18 Gregory Lamboley, 19 Talalelei Gray, 20 Timoci Matanavou, 21 Jean marc Doussain, 22 Florian Fritz, 23 Dorian Aldegheri.

Castres: 15 Geoffrey Palis, 14 Romain Martial, 13 Rudi Wulf, 12 Romain Cabannes, 11 David Smith, 10 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 9 Julien Seron, 8 Alex Tulou, 7 Alexandre Bias, 6 Mathieu Babillot, 5 Benjamin Desroche, 4 Christophe Samson, 3 Karena Wihongi, 2 Brice Mach, 1 Yannick Forestier.
Replacements: 16 Marc antoine Rallier, 17 Yohan Montes, 18 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 19 John Beattie, 20 Antoine Dupont, 21 Julien Dumora, 22 Thomas Combezou, 23 Florian Houerie.

Last year's result: Toulouse won 35-6
Kick-off: 16:35 local (14:35 GMT)
Referee: Laurent Cardona

Bordeaux-Bègles v Montpellier
Stade Chaban-Delmas, Bordeaux

Bordeaux have been hit quite hard by World Cup absences, and injury to Blair Connor makes Sunday's clash with Montpellier a potential banana skin.

With Connor, Metuisela Talebula and French duo Sofiane Guitoune and Darly Domvo all out, Bordeaux lack the firepower usually available to them.

Given those absences, simply keeping pace will be regarded as success for Raphaël Ibanez's side, but it won't be easy against Montpellier.

While Jake White's men were comfortably beaten at Pau, they have potentially got their first-choice half-back pairing available now in Nic White and François Trinh-Duc.

The unlucky pair offer huge experience, although the centers are more of an issue with Anthony Tuitavake having picked up a knock last time out. Timoci Nagusa, in the news for other reasons this week, might take over in midfield, and Montpellier will travel knowing an upset is possible.

Bordeaux-Bègles: tbc

Montpellier: tbc

Last year's result: Bordeaux-Bègles won 27-21
Kick-off: 16:15 local (14:15 GMT)
Referee: Tual Trainini

Stade Français v Toulon
Stade Jean Bouin, Paris

A repeat of last year's Top 14 semi-final but the dynamic of the game should be very different given the players missing.

On that occasion Stade Français dominated in the scrum and squeezed the life out of Toulon, but with a host of props either on international duty or out injured, a repeat is unlikely.

Last weekend they were hammered up front by Brive, and new signing Paul Alo-Emile is under pressure to make an immediate impact.

Things haven't gone smoothly for Toulon either, and Bernard Laporte told the pack that there isn't a single first choice player among them once the World Cup contingent return.

That seems a little melodramatic, especially given Steffon Armitage and Juan Smith's performances over the last couple of years, and the scrum at least performed well against Castres.

The problem was elsewhere, with Toulon looking short of leaders, and while they should edge the battle in the set-piece, elsewhere Stade might have an edge.

If the champions can get back to winning ways at home, Toulon will slump to a third straight loss. It's far from insurmountable, especially with the quality of players on the way, but the likes of Clermont will take some catching if they are given a double digit lead in the table.

Stade Français: tbc

Toulon: tbc

Last year's result: Stade Français won 30-6
Kick-off: 21:00 local (19:00 GMT)
Referee: Thomas Charabas