Racing look to bounce back in Top 14

Dan Carter practices for Racing 92

Racing 92 have no time to lick their wounds after defeat by Saracens in the European Cup final, skipper Dimitri Szarzewski insisting the Parisian club will now go all out to clinch the Top 14 title.

That task starts with a home match against Pau on Saturday as the race to clinch one of the top six spots for the play-offs heats up.

Racing currently sit in fourth place on 68 points behind leaders Clermont (79 points), recently-crowned European Challenge Cup winners Montpellier (73) and Toulon (72).

Toulouse occupy fifth on 66 points, five ahead of Bordeaux (61), with Castres (58), La Rochelle (54) and Brive (52) all holding out hope for a rush for that sixth position.

Szarzewski insisted the atmosphere among his Racing teammates was good despite the European defeat, not aided by All Black legend Dan Carter starting although patently unfit with a calf injury.

“I’m a little surprised, I thought the squad were going to be more affected,” the hooker said of the 21-9 defeat by Saracens.

“It’s certain that the role of the coaches and the squad leaders was important — we tried to focus on the positives and keep a perspective, even if a loss in the a final hurts, even if it has not yet been completely digested,” he said.

“It would be great to play a good match against Pau and rediscover our confidence.

“We don’t have the time to mope around. We must again embrace with victory as soon as possible.”

The France hooker added: “We’re in a different competition, we’re still not yet qualified so we have to move forward.

“We have a goal and that is to go as far as possible, which comes from victories.”

To be champion of the Top 14, Szarzewski said, “there remain six matches which we’ll try to win”.

Clermont host defending champions Stade Francais on Sunday, Racing’s cross-city rivals languishing in 12th spot but safe in the knowledge they managed to avoid relegation to the ProD2, that fate having fallen to Oyonnax and Agen.

Clermont became the first team to qualify for the play-offs after their 16-10 win over Pau last weekend.

But coach Franck Azema was in no doubt that Stade could provide to be a tricky opponent, as shown by their free-running 69-8 demolition of Oyonnax.

“They’ve been freed from the negative pressure by showing what they’re capable of at Oyonnax,” Azema said.

“They’ll come here with good intentions and probably the desire to show that they’re better than their season overall.

“They’ve no longer got anything to lose and everything to gain,” he said. “It’s up to us to show how we’ll cope with such games.”

Second-placed Montpellier will entertain Bordeaux-Begles at home fresh from their convincing 26-19 victory over Harlequins in the Challenge Cup.

Toulon travel to Agen in Saturday’s early game, with Toulouse away to Oyonnax. Brive host Grenoble while Castres entertain La Rochelle.

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Saturday

Agen v Toulon (1230),
Brive v Grenoble,
Castres v La Rochelle,
Racing 92 v Pau,
Oyonnax v Toulouse (all 1300),
Montpellier v Bordeaux-Begles (1435)

Sunday

Clermont v Stade Francais (1415)

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