Predictions: Clermont and Toulouse to set up thrilling final

Date published: June 7 2019

Ahead of the semi-finals in the French Top 14, we are putting our head on the block and picking our winners from the two big matches.

Both games take place at Bordeaux’s Matmut Atlantique as Toulouse and La Rochelle open proceedings on Saturday before Clermont Auvergne and Lyon go head-to-head on Sunday.

There is also the penultimate weekend of Super Rugby action while the World Rugby U20 Championship has reached the second round after a thrilling opening day on Tuesday.

TOP 14 SEMI-FINALS

Toulouse v La Rochelle

On history alone, there is a clear disparity between the teams as 19-times French champions Toulouse faces a La Rochelle side that have never won the competition, but Jono Gibbes’ men are arguably the more battle-hardened outfit going into this semi-final.

While Maxime Medard and Yoann Huget are senior pros, this is an inexperienced Les Rouge et Noir who are in the embryonic stage of their development as a squad. In comparison, their opponents know all about recent domestic semi-final heartbreak after going down in the last-four in 2017.

That was after they dominated the regular league season and finished top, but they now have the chance to erase memories of that loss and do what Toulon did to them; by overcoming the runaway leaders. Toulouse are justifiably favourites, however, and should they play with the same verve which has served them so well all campaign then the French giants will have too much for La Rochelle. Toulouse by 10.

Clermont Auvergne v Lyon

This is almost a repeat of the first semi-final as one of the perceived giants of the French game takes on a relative newcomer. Lyon have built impressively since gaining promotion back to the Top 14 in 2016 and will contest another game in the last-four after reaching the same stage last year.

In 2018, they were comprehensively outplayed by Montpellier, going down 40-14, and they will hope that experience serves them well against the 2017 champions.

Interestingly, both teams have won the same amount of league titles, but Clermont are revered across the continent having contested countless finals in the Top 14 and Europe’s top-tier competition. They have also enjoyed a superb campaign in 2018/19, winning the Challenge Cup and playing some superb rugby domestically.

Although Lyon are a tough team to beat and are particularly strong up front, Les Jaunards have that extra bit of quality and should overcome Pierre Mignoni’s men to take their place in the showpiece event. Clermont by 15.

SUPER RUGBY

Crusaders v Rebels: Crusaders by 25
Waratahs v Brumbies: Waratahs by 5
Lions v Hurricanes: Hurricanes by 12
Stormers v Sunwolves: Stormers by 30
Jaguares v Sharks: Jaguares by 4

WORLD RUGBY U20 CHAMPIONSHIP

Australia v Ireland: Australia by 5
South Africa v Georgia: South Africa by 20
Argentina v Fiji: Argentina by 10
France v Wales: France by 6
England v Italy: England by 19
New Zealand v Scotland: New Zealand by 25