Shaky Toulouse eye Bayonne Top 14 boost

By their own high standards, European champions Toulouse have not had the best of starts to the new Top 14 season, the star-studded team having lost three of their opening six matches.


Guy Noves’ team now have the chance to kick start their campaign with a home match against surprise early league leaders Bayonne, four points clear of Toulouse on 21 points after notching up five wins and just one defeat.


“Since I’ve been here, we’ve never had a great start to the season,” bemoaned Toulouse flanker and France captain Thierry Dusautoir after his side went down 25-20 to Biarritz on the weekend.


“We’re not ever submerged by the opposition, but we fail to win in the same manner as teams like Brive or Racing. To stay at the top of the standings, you must win on the road.”


But Dusautoir said one should not read everything into the shaky start to the season.


“It hasn’t been a flamboyant start to the season but neither has it been a catastrophe,” he told rugby365.fr.


“Last season I remember that we weren’t great at the start of the season, we took a lot of flak but that didn’t stop us ending up champions of Europe.


“The season is long and you must not rush into false prophecies too quickly. I hope we’ll have the resources to play better rugby and, above all, win games.


“We need to work and improve our game. We can’t panic because we still have 17 points, we’re third in the table and we host the leaders this weekend.”


Bayonne, the flanker added, were a team that had impressed.


“Along with Racing, they are a team that has often done well away from home,” he said.


“They’ll come to us with no pressure and with the same ambition.


But we need the points as much as they do.”


“They have a good pack of forwards, and are very solid. The arrival of (outside-half Benjamin) Boyet brings much to their game management, notably with a kicking game as efficient as his.


“If we concede too many penalties this weekend, it’ll be very tricky.”


In the weekend’s other eye-catching games, struggling Stade Francais travel to Perpignan and Toulon host defending Top 14 champions Clermont.


Stade Francais sit in ninth place, their attacking style of play which has netted them 178 points undone by a fragile defence that has leaked 154 — the 11th worse in the 14-team league — a third of which came in the final 20 minutes.


“It’s clear that we’re scoring more tries than other teams, but we’re suffering all the time,” said Stade coach Michael Cheika after watching his side lose 29-27 to Brive despite leading 27-12 with 20 minutes to play.


“In every match, there have been some very good things but it’s not consistent enough.” Perpignan winger Farid Sid predicted that the game could be a thriller.


“Both sides have potential,” Sid said. “The two teams have shone at moments in their matches.


“It’ll be a very tough and intense game, as it is every season.”


In other matches, second-placed Racing-Metro host bottom club Bourgoin, Montpellier travel to Agen, Castres face Brive and La Rochelle entertain Biarritz.


Fixtures


Friday
Toulouse v Bayonne (1845 GMT)


Saturday (1230GMT unless stated)
Agen v Montpellier (1845GMT),
Castres v Brive,
La Rochelle v Biarritz,
Perpignan v Stade Francais,
Racing-Metro v Bourgoin,
Toulon v Clermont (1425 GMT)

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