We take a look at two of the French Top 14 games taking place this Thursday and Friday.
We shift our focus from the battle for continental superiority to the domestic stuff this week with both the Top 14 and Aviva Premiership taking centre stage. The Top 14 action gets underway on Thursday evening with lowly Grenoble taking on fallen giants Toulouse. While Friday sees a tie between relegation battlers Brive and Lyon.
Grenoble v Toulouse | Thursday 22 December | Stade des Alpes | 21:45
To Win (80 mins)
Grenoble 17/20 | Draw 18/1 | Toulouse 1/1
Grenoble will be looking to put an end to their seven-match losing streak when they entertain Toulouse in this Top 14 midweek clash at the Stade des Alpes. The home side, coming off the back of a horror run of results in both their domestic and European Challenge Cup campaigns, currently sits at the bottom of the French league and are favorites to be relegated this season. Among their rotten run of results are their most recent losses to the Ospreys, where they conceded a staggering 130 points over their two Challenge Cup legs.
Grenoble are dangerously low on confidence, and their shocking run should continue against Thierry Dusautoir's men, who came out trumps in the previous meeting between the two sides in October, by 31 points to 3. In contrasting fortunes, Toulouse are fresh off a three-match winning streak that includes back-to-back victories against Zebre in the European Champions Cup. The last time this Toulouse side lost was in a narrow November defeat at Brive, and they currently sit 8 points adrift of the log-leading Clermont in the Top 14 standings. With 50% of the round-robin matches completed, Toulouse will look to heap more misery on Grenoble in the final set of fixtures before Christmas.
Verdict: Toulouse 1/1
A Toulouse win at even money is some of the best value you'll find floating around this week. They're in form and their opponents look ripe for the taking.
Brive v Lyon | Friday 23 December | Stade Amedee-Domenech | 20:00
To Win (80 minutes)
Brive 2/9 | Draw 17/1 | Lyon 32/10
Brive should feel confident about defeating an inconsistent Lyon side at home, especially after coming off a resounding two-legged win over Enisei-STM in the European Challenge Cup. Despite being a mere three log points above Lyon on the Top 14 table, and despite drawing the corresponding fixture 15-all, Brive will fancy their chances of collecting maximum log points come Friday. Having won four of their last six games in all competitions, they start the clash as just favorites.
After a run that included three successive defeats, Lyon must have thought that they had stopped the rot when they won at home to Newcastle in their Challenge Cup first leg encounter this December. This proved to be a false dawn however, as they proceeded to go down 29-48 in the return fixture in England. Having won just four of their thirteen Top 14 matches this season, "Les Loups" will battle to overcome a confident Brive side at home.
There may not be huge value on a Brive win at 2/9 but with their confidence surely boosted by their Challenge Cup victory, they look a solid bet.