Biarritz looking for first Top 14 victory

Five-time French champions Biarritz look to gain their first win of a thus far disastrous start to the Top 14 rugby campaign on Friday when they host Perpignan.

Biarritz – who were last in the second tier in the 1995/96 season – are bottom of the table with just one draw in their four matches but club president and French legend Serge Blanco is not ready to admit that the club is in a crisis.

However, defeat at the hands of old rivals Perpignan – who are fourth in the table nine points ahead of Biarritz – could plunge them into just such a scenario.

“If we lose to Perpignan, we will then have something to be worried about,” Blanco told regional newspaper ‘Sud Ouest’.

Blanco, whose two-time European Cup finalists trail unbeaten leaders Clermont by 14 points, claimed that their form had been affected by influential players such as Imanol Harinordoquy and Dimitri Yachvili being away at the World Cup, though other clubs have barely been affected by their best players being away.

“I recall that it is a World Cup year and we are playing matches during it without eight international players, and we are proud of that,” said the 53-year-old Venezuela-born Blanco, who was capped 93 times.

“But we also have several key players out injured and for that we are less proud as that is our responsibility.

“We have had to blood a lot of young players into the team, and that, I do not have any regrets about at all.”

Clermont by contrast to Biarritz have made light of stars Morgan Parra and Aurelien Rougerie on World Cup duty and having several of their established players such as France internationals Anthony Floch and Julien Malzieu out injured.

Indeed a young and inexperienced side gained an impressive 22-11 victory away at Racing-Metro last weekend which had coach Vern Cotter eulogising about their performance.

The 2010 champions host Bayonne also on Friday and should have little trouble in maintaining their unbeaten start to the season and should be boosted by the return of experienced prop Vincent Debaty.

Racing for their part will look to bounce back after the Clermont defeat which saw them drop to seventh in the standings, seven points adrift of the leaders.

Certainly their former France international star Sebastien Chabal hopes that the loss was an aberration and they will set the record straight at home to newboys Lyon, who are on a high after recording their first win at this level away at Brive last Friday.

“They (Lyon) play rugby well. They will come here hungry and without any pressure,” said the 33-year-old, who was left out of the World Cup squad after a series of underwhelming Six Nations performances.

“They have the weaponry to get under our skin.”

Fixtures (1800GMT kick-offs unless stated):


Biarritz v Perpignan,
Castres v Brive,
Clermont v Bayonne,
Montpellier v Bordeaux-Begles,
Racing-Metro v Lyon OU, (1845)
Agen v Toulouse

Saturday (1400GMT):
Toulon v Stade Francais

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