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Toulouse, Clermont look to stay ahead in Top14


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Article Published: Friday 6 January 2012


Top 14 Rugby leaders Toulouse and second-placed Clermont will both seek to consolidate their places at the head of the French Top 14 when they take on Lyon and Toulon respectively this weekend.

Toulouse are sitting pretty on 51 points after only losing two of their 14 games so far this season, with Clermont five points behind.

But there are six mid-table teams below them battling for the four other spots in the league play-offs come season's end.

Castres, Toulon, Agen, Racing-Metro, Stade Francais and Montpellier are locked into a calendar that highlights each game a crunch tie, with only nine points separating the clubs.

Defending Top 14 champions Toulouse, 18-time winners of the league, face what many pundits have described as a stroll against Lyon, sitting one point above Biarritz at the bottom of the league.

But backs coach Jean-Baptiste Elissalde warned that Lyon were capable of throwing up some surprises.

"Everyone thinks this match will be a formality but having seen videos of their last games, I can tell you that this Lyon team will pose us a lot of problems," the former France half-back said.

Toulouse will be bolstered by the return of full-back Clement Poitrenaud who on Thursday was recalled to France's Six Nations squad, Yann David, Patricio Albacete and South African prop Gurthro Steenkamp.

However, Daan Human, Rupeni Caucaunibuca, Ruslan Boukerou, Gary Botha and Gilian Galan are all still out injured, while internationals Vincent Clerc, Florian Fritz, Maxime Medard and Yoann Maestri are rested.

Clermont host Toulon on Sunday, with Jonny Wilkinson's team hoping to pull off what would be a shock away victory over a team that has produced some sparkling rugby of late.

Toulon suffered a dispiriting 25-6 loss to Biarritz last week, the league's basement club finally seeming to get their campaign off to a proper start with only their third win of the season.

Biarritz travel to Agen on Friday desperate for another win in their bid to clamber out of the relegation zone.

"We saw another side of Biarritz," the club's backs coach Jack Isaac said of the Toulon victory.

"We saw 23 players ready to commit themselves for 80 minutes, our best 80 minutes this year.

"We produced some interesting things and the most positive was the group coming together."

Friday

Agen v Biarritz

Saturday

Bayonne v Bordeaux-Begles,
Brive v Montpellier,
Perpignan v Racing-Metro,
Stade Francais v Castres,
Toulouse v Lyon

Sunday

Clermont v Toulon

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