Top 14 Preview and Predictions: Round 20


The Top 14 clashes with the Six Nations, though the powers that be have arranged matters so French rugby fans can watch Les Bleus take on Wales in Cardiff on Friday without feeling guilty about putting country before club.

They have, however, not been so kind to anyone who may want to watch the weekend’s other two Six Nations matches.

If he wants to see his future side play Italy on Saturday, next season’s Scotland coach Vern Cotter, for example, will have to sneakily stream the game in Rome on a computer, tablet or smartphone while watching Clermont take on – and most likely demolish – Montpellier at Stade Marcel Michelin.

It’s the second time in three weeks that first has played second in a Top 14 game at Marcel Michelin. Last time, Clermont cruised past Stade Francais. Expect more of the same this Saturday as they look to extend their winning streak at home, which stretches back 72 games to November 2009.

Bordeaux had a weekend off when their last Top 14 match against Oyonnax was postponed because of the weather. So, they’re rested – and if their five-try performance against Grenoble last time they played at home is anything to go by, they’ll be too much for Racing Métro to handle – especially as the big-spending Parisians will be without their international contingent.

Grenoble fear no side in the Top 14. Last week, they beat Clermont at home – adding the Jaunards’ scalp to those of Stade Francais, Castres, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Oyonnax, Perpignan and Toulon to have left Stade des Alpes in defeat. So Top 14 basement side Biarritz should hold no fears at all.

Some pundits were faintly surprised when Stade Francais lost in a swamp at Brive last weekend. They probably shouldn’t have been. The Brivistes are a nuggety side that are nigh-on impossible to beat at home. So the second Parisian side are probably relieved to be back at Stade Jean Bouin this weekend.

They welcome 13th-placed Oyonnax, who have had two of their last three games called off. They need a win, but it’s not likely to happen away at Stade Francais.

Fortunately for Oyonnax, 12th-placed Bayonne face the galacticos of Toulon this weekend. Unfortunately for Oyonnax, Bayonne are at home, where – like most sides in the Top 14 – they’re tough to beat. Worse, Toulon’s galacticos aren’t shining as brightly as perhaps they should.

There’s a derby battle of the fringe players at defending Top 14 champions Castres’ Stade Pierre Antoine. The Tarn side welcome Midi-Pyrenees rivals Toulouse, with both sides heavily weakened by injuries and international call ups.

But, finally, there’s some certainty for the future after scrum-half Rory Kockott revealed his desire to remain with Castres, joining 11 other current players in extending his stay in the Tarn. That certainty, a passionate home crowd and a strong pack should prove too much for Toulouse.

Finally, Perpignan are going backwards quickly. They have lost six of their last nine games – a dismal run stretching back to October. So even a home match against Brive, last week’s conquerors of Stade Francais, is probably not what the doctor ordered.

SuperBru Predictions:
Clermont v Montpellier: Clermont by 10
Bordeaux v Racing Metro: Bordeaux by 6
Grenoble v Biarritz: Grenoble by 15
Stade Francais v Oyonnax: Stade Francais by 12
Perpignan v Brive: Brive by 7
Castres v Toulouse: Castres by 8
Bayonne v Toulon: Bayonne by 6

By James Harrington (@blackmountained)

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images