Bayonne hope to put troubled week behind them

Bayonne are hoping to put a week of turmoil and headlines behind them when they face highflying Montpellier in their return to the Top 14 Rugby.

Bayonne have been struggling with form and sit second from bottom of the table after nine matches and have had a week of being hounded by unsavoury headlines.

They were over three of their players including serial offender Wales’s most capped scrum-half Mike Phillips turning up drunk for a video analysis session earlier this month, leaving them in desperate need of some good news.

While Phillips has been suspended for a second time by the club, his previous offence was back in 2012, the other two offenders New Zealand duo backrow forward Dwayne Hare and fly-half Stephen Brett have been retained in the squad for the home game.

However, the hosts will be boosted by the return after a thigh injury of former All Black try scoring machine Joe Rokocoko while wings Marvin O’Connor and Argentinian Martin Bustos Moyano are also fit for selection.

Bayonne have treated this game so seriously that they imposed a blanket ban on anyone attending their trainign sessions this week and furthermore refused to divulge the exact punishments handed out to the trio.

“All the different parts of Bayonne rugby club are solely focussed on beating Montpellier on Friday, a game we have to win,” the club said.

Montpellier, second in the table, for their part will want the victory to put pressure on the other two clubs who like them have 27 points, European Cup champions and beaten French championship finalists Toulon and Toulouse, who play each other on Saturday.

However, Fabien Galthie’s side will also have to pick themselves up after a sound beating at home by Ulster in last Saturday’s European Cup clash, only the second time the Irish province had prevailed in France in the history of the tournament.

Thet will be missing key flanker Fulgence Ouedraogo, who suffered a shoulder injury in the Ulster game, and South African centre Wynand Oliver, who has a thigh injury also a result of the European game.

Toulon too need to rebound from a surprise European reverse, losing away to a Cardiff side that had been comprehensively beaten by modest English outfit Exeter in their opening game.

Frederic Michalak, Toulon’s mercurial scrum-half, could well start his first Top 14 game of the season after missing out with a shoulder injury he suffered on the France tour of New Zealand in the close season, believes that Toulouse have the better form at the moment.

While Michalak, who made his return from the injury in the match with Cardiff, says Toulon are taking matches for granted he added that Toulouse were on a different plane to them, although their form too especially away from home has been patchy.

“I don’t know if this is the best moment to be playing Toulouse,” said the 31-year-old veteran, who established his reputation at Toulouse.

“I hope that we prepare for this match with a little bit of fear in our heads because opposite us will be the best team in France at the moment.

“We cannot pretend that we are going to win at Toulouse, especially seeing how they are playing at the moment.

“They are just on another planet. I know the club, I know that in such moments, they are very very strong.

“In their victory over Saracens (17-16 in the European Cup last Friday) they didn’t break even with a really strong team opposite them. It is a huge club, who want more all the time. They want to win all their matches. All the players have something to prove. They leave little room for error.”

Toulouse’s only blow of late has been the long-term injury suffered by former All Black fly-half Luke McAlister, but even with him due to miss four months they do not feel the need to replace him with a signing and look set to place their confidence instead in young Frenchman Jean-Marc Doussain, who normally plays at scrum-half.

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