French Top 14 Final: Clermont Auvergne vs Stade Francais Preview

Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!

ASM Clermont Auvergne vs Stade Francais Paris | Saturday 13 June | Stade de France, Paris | 21:00

With the international rugby season fast approaching, we have entered the backend of the domestic competitions of most countries. This weekend will see the conclusion of the French Top 14 which started way back in mid-August of last year. The final sees Clermont’s finest take on competition dark horses Stade Francais in Paris. The two sides have a bit of history in this competition with Stade Francais’ last tenure as title holders coming in 2007 after they defeated Clermont in that year’s final. The teams met each other twice in the round robin phase with the spoils shared; Clermont smashed Stade Francais 51-9 in Round 11 whilst Stade Francais won 40-26 in Round 21. With both sides stocked with experienced international campaigners, Saturday evening’s encounter is set to be a cracker.

To Win (80mins)
Clermont 8/10
Draw 18/1
Stade Francais 11/10

To Lift Cup
Clermont 7/10
Stade Francias 1/1

Clermont (-1) 9/10
Stade Francais (+1) 9/10

ASM Clermont Auvergne
Clermont’s road to the final has been pretty straight forward. They finished second on the Top 14 log which saw them automatically advance to the semi-final, where they defeated Stade Toulousain 18 -14 at the Parc Des Sports Marcel Michelin. Like most financially strong French sides Clermont have a few internationals in their squad with former Crusaders and All Black winger Zac Guildford, Welsh duo Lee Byrne and the injured Jonathan Davies as well as French international Morgan Parra are all part of a backline that has put in some impressive performances this year. Apart from backline flair, Clermont have a strong pack which includes Canadian mountain man Jamie Cudmore. Cudmore will be calling the shots at lineout time and will offer a ball-carrying option in open play. Clermont head coach Franck Azema has a selection headache in terms of who starts in the pivot berth; his two options are Argentine young gun Camille Lopez or experienced Australian Brock James. James came on for the last twenty minutes of their semi-final and turned things around with a composed performance which will have given Azema food for thought.

Stade Francais Paris
It proved a tougher route to the final for the men from Paris, having finished fourth on the log they had to go through the playoffs where they defeated Racing Metro 38-15. Their semi-final saw them come up against the much fancied and table-topping Toulon away. A Morne Steyn inspired performance saw them emphatically beat the top seeds 16-33. Like their opponents, Stade have a number of internationals to call upon including former Aussie winger Digby Ioane and former Bok utility back Meyer Bosman as well as Fijian centre Waisea Nayacalevu. The heart and soul of the team however is Italian international Sergio Parisse who skippers the side from the back of the scrum. The big number eight managed to get across the whitewash for a crucial five-pointer in his side’s semi-final victory. He is joined in the pack by Australian internationals David Lyons and Hugh Pyle; Pyle should prove to be stiff competition for Cudmore at the lineouts. The key man for Stade Francais is going to be Morne Steyn, who has been in fine form scoring 28 points in their quarter-final while scoring a further eighteen in their semi-final.

VERDICT: Stade Francais 11/10 
Most finals are decided by the boot of a flyhalf and this weekend will probably be no different. Taking this into consideration, I think Stade hold the advantage in the shape of one of Loftus Versfeld’s legendary number tens.

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