Whilst most eager rugby eyes will be glued to events taking place from Twickenham to all corners of the British Isles, Ireland and Italy for the start of the Aviva Premiership and RaboDirect Pro12 seasons, one should not forget that the Top 14 will be in full flow for round three.
Officiating has been the hot topic across the channel this week, after two candid —or perhaps bitter —presidents accused the referees of either being influenced by the opposition or of being too lenient to the opposition in their respective defeats. Agen’s president Alain Tignaud asked that Agen are refereed “like everyone else” and that if they are relegated come the end of the season it is because they “have not been good enough, rather than because of any injustice”. These comments came following his side’s 19-25 home defeat to Biarritz Olympique, where he believed Romain Poite did not reward Agen sufficiently for their dominance at the scrum and that Damian Traille should have been yellow-carded for a professional foul.
Racing Metro president Jacky Lorenzetti also felt aggrieved by a peculiar incident during the half time break of his side’s 21-23 defeat at home to Toulon, in which Toulon’s head coach Bernard Laporte entered the dressing room of referee Monsieur Raynal. In his defence, Laporte claimed he had entered the dressing room to question Raynal about an incident in which he believed Racing hooker Dimitri Szarzewski had deliberately stamped on the head of Chris Masoe, whose ear had turned “hideous” as a result — Laporte had clearly forgotten that “hideous” was a word that should be reserved exclusively for Graham Rowntree’s ears.
Elsewhere, Montpellier and Bordeaux-Begles claimed two huge scalps at home. Bordeaux produced the shock result of the weekend when they beat Perpignan 26-22, and Montpellier beat title favourites Clermont Auvergne 13-8 in a result that will be seen as far from a catastrophe for the massif-central club after they gained a losing bonus point.
There are two heavyweight bouts taking place this weekend. Champions Toulouse travel to the Basque country to face old foes Biarritz, and Clermont welcome a Perpignan side feeling the heat with the prospect of a third straight league defeat. I am going for a calculated risk by backing Toulouse, as i feel the absence of Dimitri Yachvilli will be more telling against the champions even if Biarritz are at home.
I expect Clermont to register their second win of the season against Perpignan as they are almost unbeatable at home and In the other fixtures I am going for wins for Stade, Castres, Montpellier, Racing and Toulon.
Here are my Superbru predictions for round 3:
Grenoble v Stade Francais: Stade by 2
Biarritz v Toulouse: Toulouse by 6
Castres v Bayonne: Castres by 8
Clermont v Perpignan: Clermont by 10
Montpellier v Agen: Montpellier by 10
Racing v Bordeaux: Racing by 10
Mont-de Marsan v Toulon: Toulon by 20