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French Top 14: Clermont v Toulon Preview
Our rugby scribe takes a look at Sunday's Top 14 fixture being contested by Clermont and Toulon.
A mouth-watering clash awaits us this Sunday, as French powerhouses ASM Clermont Auvergne and Toulon go head-to-head at the Stade Marcel Michelin.
Clermont v Toulon | Sunday 8 January | Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin | 22:00
To Win (80 Mins)
Clermont 2/9 | Draw 20/1 | Toulon 31/10
Clermont will be looking to put a disappointing 20-26 defeat at 6th-placed Toulouse behind them, with a win at home against traditional rivals Toulon. After an uncharacteristic performance by the Top 14's pace-setters on the final day of 2016, Clermont will hope that everything falls into place this Sunday.
Despite having won just 3 of their last 6 games in all competitions, Damien Chouly's men will be looking to put more daylight between themselves and the rest of the chasing pack, and solidify their standing as favorites to host a semi-final come the season's end.
It has become all too familiar to see "Les Jaunards" ascend the Top 14 log during the round-robin stages, only to crash and burn come the knockout phase of the competition, and the men in yellow will be hoping to put an end to that run, starting with a win at home this weekend.
As commonplace as it has been to see Clermont peak early on in seasons past, only to fade come the business end, has it been for Toulon to do the exact opposite! Rugby's very own "Galacticos" are not unlike Super Rugby's Crusaders, often treading through seasons without much promise, only to excel in their latter stages.
Currently sitting on fourth, five points adrift of their table-topping rivals, Duane Vermeulen and his charges will be looking to break their two-match losing run and topple their French counterparts this Sunday. Although away wins at the Stade Marcel Michelin are rare occurrences, if any side has the class, skill and power to achieve one this season, it's the men in red and black.
When these two sides met in September, Toulon scrapped home by two points at the Stade Félix-Mayol (winning 23-21). This weekend's game is bound to be just as close, though I'd put my money on Clermont to continue their unbeaten home run this season, with a narrow win here by 7 points or less.