Top 14 Rugby Preview – Friday and Saturday

Top 14 leaders Toulouse travel to the Stade de France to take on Racing-Metro at the weekend with the Parisian club sniffing what would be an upset victory over the depleted visiting team.

Qualified for the European Cup quarter-finals and six points ahead of Clermont in the league, Toulouse coach Guy Noves has rested five of the eight players named in France’s squad to face Italy in the Six Nations opener on February 4.

“A maximum of three will likely go with us, out of respect for the players, who give their best all year round for the team and France,” said Noves.

Up-and-coming half-back Jean-Marc Doussain, Gilian Galan and 18-year-old hooker Christopher Tolofua will instead be among those given a starting berth, perhaps giving Racing an advantage at the Stade.

Racing, who crashed out of the European Cup in ignomious fashion having suffered home defeats against Edinburgh, Cardiff and London Irish, sit in sixth place in the league, in a battle for that crucial last play-off place with Agen and a resurgent Montpellier side.

“Many clubs would love to have Guy Noves’ second team!” laughed Racing No 8 Sebastian Chabal, the former France forward.

“We don’t look too much at the opponents. We’ve lost matches on the little things we haven’t done right. We have to try to work on them, that’s for sure.”

Chabal, whose contract with Racing ends this year, added: “We have a tough calendar coming up: we host Toulouse, we go to Clermont and then Lyon.

“It’s not easy but we’ve known since the start of the season that this championship is complicated. Even if we’re sixth and we’re still in the running, we’ve put ourselves in the bad position of losing at home.

“We’ve refound our form away from home but it’ll be very tough to remain in the top six, we’ll have to fight weekend after weekend. All the points will be really important.”

Racing suffered a blow for the Toulouse game, however, with news that fly-half Jonathan Wisniewski is out with a thigh injury, while Argentinian Juan Martin Hernandez was not included in the squad.

Second-placed Clermont travel to Bordeaux-Begles with a host of internationals, French and otherwise, also rested, a huge 20 points separating the two clubs in the standings.

Toulon, sitting third, host Bayonne, but have been rocked by a 130-day ban handed down on club owner and president Mourad Boudjellal.

The outspoken Boudjellal on Thursday paid the price for using lurid language to describe the level of refereeing following Toulon’s defeat at Clermont earlier this month, claiming his side had been “sodomised by the referees”.

France’s National Rugby League (LNR) took exception to his remarks and Boudjellal, who made his fortune in comic books, will not be able to work as the club’s president until June 3.

Elsewhere, Montpellier host Stade Francais in Friday’s sole game, while Castres entertain struggling Biarritz, Agen travel to Lyon, and Brive play Perpignan.



Montpellier v Stade Francais


Castres v Biarritz,
Lyon v Agen,
Brive v Perpignan,
Toulon v Bayonne,
Racing-Metro v Toulouse,
Bordeaux-Begles v Clermont

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