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French Top 14: Quick-Fire Tips Preview
Our rugby scribe provides you with a full set of rapid fire tips for this weekend’s Top 14 action.
The Six Nations is on a week’s hiatus and Super Rugby is still a few days away which means the pickings are slim on the rugby front. Thankfully, though, we have the French Top 14 and Aviva Premiership to get us through this rugby famine.
As was the case with last week’s Aviva Premiership preview, we’re going to do things a bit differently and go with a quick-fire Top 14 piece rather than just analysing the two headline fixtures.
Saturday 18 February
La Rochelle 1/20 | Draw 30/1 | Stade Francais 15/2
La Rochelle currently sit atop the Top 14 standings and are on a four-game unbeaten run which includes an away victory over Toulon. The visitors, on the other hand, have struggled for results since the turn of the year with their last victory coming against Brive on New Year’s Eve. La Rochelle should walk this one.
Clermont 1/100 | Draw 28/1 | Bayonne 25/2
Our next fixture sees title-chasing Clermont take on relegation candidates, Bayonne. The visitors have only won four of their 17 games this season and look set to drop into the Pro D2. This seems a clear cut fixture on paper but it must be remembered that Clermont will be missing a whole host of players due to Six Nations call-ups. I would avoid this game like the plague if I’m being honest. If you must have a punt then I suggest sticking 10 Rand on Bayonne – this is the Top 14 after all, and upsets are as frequent an occurrence as a walk out at a State of the Nation Address.
Pau 2/11 | Draw 23/1 | Grenoble 37/10
Pau come into this one off the back of a 38-15 victory over Lyon. The win has seen them cement their spot in mid-table. Grenoble, also come into this one off the back of a victory, albeit three weeks ago. They currently sit three points off last-placed Bayonne and will be desperate to get a win here. My money is on the hosts. They have been solid at home this season and I can’t see them slipping up against the relegation candidates.
Racing Metro 2/11 | Draw 23/1 | Brive 37/10
Have Racing Metro finally hit their straps or were Lyon just poor last Saturday? It’s a question that I honestly don’t have an answer to. While they did look decent during their 59-20 victory last week, Racing have provided us with some false dawns already this season – remember that hard fought victory over Montpellier in early November? Or their spirited festive season draw with high-flyers, La Rochelle? The good news for Racing fans is that they are coming up against a Brive side who have only won one of their last three games. I’m banking on Metro making it back-to-back wins here.
Toulon 1/20 | Draw 28/1 | Lyon 15/2
This game is the one I’m going after. Toulon have lost a few players to the French national squad but my main reason for thinking we may see an upset here is that a whole host of Toulon's players were involved in the Brisbane Tens last week, which means they will have faced a long-haul flight back to France. Lyon certainly have blown hot and cold but I suspect they may just turn it on at the Stade Mayol. They have a whole host of ex-Toulon players on their books, who will want nothing more than to get a win on the ground they used to play at. My advice is to have a ten rand strike on Lyon and sit back and enjoy the game.
Sunday 19 February
Bordeaux 3/10 | Draw 20/1 | Castres 24/10
Bordeaux are winless in three and that horrid record could well be extended with Castres coming to town. The visitors have claimed some massive scalps this season, beating both Toulon and Montpellier. They have been alright on the road, defeating Lyon and running Clermont close. It’s going to be a tight affair but my money is on the visitors walking away with the points.
Montpellier 1/4 | Draw 21/1 | Toulouse 29/20
Our final fixture in this week’s quick-fire tips segment sees Montpellier host Toulouse. The hosts have probably bee the least affected of the oligarchy of Top 14 teams with the majority of their squad being made up of foreign imports. Toulouse, on the other hand, have lost a handful of stalwarts to Six Nations call-ups and are likely to struggle without influential centre Gael Fickou. There may be little value on offer here Montpellier are my banker for the weekend.