French Top 14: La Rochelle v Montpellier Preview

This weekend's Top 14 blockbuster sees La Rochelle and Montpellier square off in a top-of-the-table clash on Saturday the 2nd of December.

Top 14 leaders Montpellier will be looking to bounce back from an atrocious showing against Racing Metro when they take on La Rochelle at the Stade Marcel Deflandre. This will be easier said than done however as the hosts for this weekend's headline affair have been in rollicking form and head into this one off the back of a mammoth 44-14 victory over Pau. 

With the Top 14 set to enter a two-week break at the close of this coming weekend, the winner of this game would enter the domestic hiatus as top dog on the log. Needless to say, there's a lot riding on this fixture.
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La Rochelle v Montpellier | Saturday 2 December | Stade Marcel Deflandre | 15:45

To Win (80 Mins)
La Rochelle 1/4 | Draw 20/1 | Montpellier 28/10

La Rochelle
The most attacking of all of the French sides were at their expansive best last weekend as they ran in six tries on their way to thumping a competent Pau side 44-14. The win was a much-needed one for the men from southwestern France who came into their last assignment off the back of a 16 point loss to Castres.

La Rochelle now have the chance of heading into the two-week European Champions and Challenge Cup break as Top 14 leaders. They only trail Montpellier by two points, and any form of a victory, regardless of how narrow, would see La Rochelle leapfrog their opponents to top spot.

The above scenario could well play out as Montpellier looked rather fatigued last week and La Rochelle have an immaculate record at home having yet to taste defeat on their own patch this term.

The hosts will have to be extremely wary of Montpellier's Fijian winger Nemani Nadolo, The big man was on international duty last week and missed his sides clash with Racing. He will have to be tightly marshalled by La Rochelle otherwise he could well end up being the difference between the two sides.

Vern Cotter will have given his charges the hairdryer treatment after they failed to even put a point on the board against Racing last Sunday. Not many would have predicted such a poor showing from the competition's pacesetters, who were in marvellous form heading into last week's fixture.

It was a rather strange performance from Montpellier with their seasoned internationals making a plethora of handling errors. Both Aaron Cruden and Frans Steyn were guilty of trying to force passes when the easier option would have been to have gone to deck and recycled the ball - Steyn and Cruden's overbearingness actually led to two of Racing's tries.

These two men will need to up their standards ten-fold this weekend as the La Rochelle midfield is just as capable of punishing opposition errors as Racing are.

Verdict: La Rochelle 1/4
Montpellier will be a lot more competitive this week with their talismanic winger back in the side. Having said that, I still don't think the return of Nadolo will be enough to swing this game as La Rochelle are just too strong a team on their home patch. 

Written by Darry Worthington for

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