French Top 14: Round 14 Preview

Rugby players engage in a tackle

The first set of Top 14 fixtures for 2019 kick off on Saturday the 5th of January. 

The 2018 segment of the current Top 14 season certainly didn't disappoint last weekend with a plethora of high-scoring affairs taking place. While most of the fixtures went according to script, there was one big upset with Bordeaux hammering Racing 40-7.

Let's hope the opening Round of 2019 is as action-packed as the last set of fixtures.

Stade Francais v Perpignan
Saturday 5 January
Stade Jean Bouin

To Win (80 Mins)
Stade 1/14
Draw 35/1
Perpignan 6/1

We kick the year off with a fixture between a Stade side aiming to reinforce their position inside the top 7 and a Perpignan outfit still looking to bag their first win of the campaign.

This weekend's hosts capped 2018 off on a rather underwhelming note as they struggled to a 23-20 home victory over minnows Grenoble. This was a gem that one would have expected Stade to get a bonus point from and the Paris-based club will be extremely disappointed to have only walked away from the fixture with four points to show from their efforts.

While Stade will be kicking themselves for not gaining a bonus point, Perpignan will be wondering if they will ever bag a win as the cellar-dwellers succumbed to their 13th defeat of the season last weekend as they went down 16-37 at home to Clermont.

Verdict: Stade 1/14
I'm expecting a more clinical display from the Parisians this weekend. I expect them to take this one by 14 points or more.

Montpellier v Lyon
Saturday 5 January
Altrad Stadium

To Win (80 Mins)
Montpellier 2/11
Draw 35/1
Lyon 36/10

Barrage-place rivals Montpellier and Clermont will square off at the Altrad Stadium in Saturday's next fixture. The hosts enjoyed a solid close to the year as they secured a bonus point win from their 41-14 victory over Pau. The result has seen them close a bit of ground of the top seven.

Lyon also closed out 2018 on a high note as they too bagged a bonus point win beating Agen 52-20 in a pulsating game of rugby.

Verdict: Montpellier 2/11
This should be a cracker of a game with both sides in decent attacking touch. My money is on the hosts coming up trumps by no more than seven points.

Grenoble v Castres
Saturday 5 January
Stade des Alpes

To Win (80 Mins)
Grenoble 7/10
Draw 18/1
Castres 12/10

Reigning champions Castres will be looking to put a poor run of form behind them when they travel to take on a gritty Grenoble outfit. The visitors suffered their fifth defeat from their last six starts when they went down 53-27 to La Rochelle last Saturday.

Grenoble also suffered a loss last week but they did manage to pick up a losing bonus point from their narrow 23-20 loss against Stade Francais.

Verdict: Grenoble 7/10
I'm going to back the hosts for this one. They may not have the big names their counterparts do but they do have a gutsy squad who have punched well above their weight this term.

Pau v Bordeaux
Saturday 5 January
Stade du Hameau

To Win (80 Mins)
Pau 6/10
Draw 18/1
Bordeaux 27/20

Pau and Bordeaux are next up, and this is a game both teams will be desperate to win, albeit for different reasons. The hosts currently find themselves languishing in 12th-place on the standings and need to start picking up points at a rapid rate if they are to avoid being drawn into a relegation battle. Bordeaux, on the other hand, sit pretty in fourth on the table and will be aiming to move into the top three.

The two sides head into this one off the back of contrasting fortunes with Pau going down 41-13 to Montpellier and Bordeaux beating Racing Metro 40-7.

Verdict: Bordeaux 27/20
The Begles are in terrific form at the minute and I can't see them losing to an out of sorts Pau side.

Agen v Toulouse
Saturday 5 January
Stade Amandie

To Win (80 Mins)
Agen 37/20
Draw 20/1
Toulouse 9/20

The penultimate game of Round 14 will see 13th-placed Agen play host to second-placed Toulouse. The home side head into Saturday's fixture off the back of their ninth defeat of the season - a 32 point loss to Lyon.

Toulouse enjoyed a far more positive Round 13 as they thrashed Toulon 39-0. The result has seen them move within three points of log leaders, Clermont.

Verdict: Toulouse 9/20
Toulouse should have no trouble getting one over an Agen side that has been found out by the big boys this term. The visitors should take the spoils here by more than 12 points.

Racing Metro 92 v Toulon
Saturday 5 January
Paris La Defense Arena

To Win (80 Mins)
Racing 1/6
Draw 25/1
Toulon 39/10

Saturday's action comes to a close with a tie between two sides who have been extremely hit and miss this term, Racing and Toulon. Both teams head into this one off the back of drubbings with the visitors going down 39-0 to Toulouse and Racing losing 40-7 to Bordeaux.

Verdict: Racing 1/6
I'm expecting a big response from the hosts here. They were embarrassed last weekend and they will want to atone for that shoddy performance by hammering a Toulon side that's ripe for the taking. I expect Metro to take this one by 10 points or more. 

Clermont Auvergne v La Rochelle
Sunday 6 January
Parc des Sports Marcel-Michellin

To Win (80 Mins)
Clermont 1/6
Draw 25/1
La Rochelle 39/10

The first round of the year will come to a close with a top draw clash between log-leading Clermont and bang in-form La Rochelle. The visitors extended their unbeaten run to seven games last week when they beat Castres 53-27.

Round 13 was also kind to Clermont as they beat minnows Perpignan 16-37. This was an ideal way to bounce back from their Round 12 draw with Toulouse.

Verdict: Clermont 1/6
We should see a boatload of points scored in this one as both teams are keen to run the ball. I can see Clermont edging a high-scoring affair. 

Written by Darry Worthington for

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