Hollywoodbets Sports Blog: French Top 14: 2020/21 Season Preview

French Top 14: 2020/21 Season Preview


Darry Worthington takes a look at the upcoming 2020/21 French Top 14 season which gets underway on Friday the 4th of September.

Image copyright - Steve Haag Sports

Two women looking excitedly at cellphoneThe French Top 14 makes a welcome return this September with the 2020/21 season set to kick off on September the 4th. The previous season was called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic with no winner being declared.

With there still massive worries over the pandemic in France, there will be a lot of quirks during the start of the season including games being played with no crowds. We'll take a look at some of the aforementioned kinks and how the teams are shaping up heading into the new season. 

Season Overview
We may be about to kick-off a new season but things in France are still rather disrupted with COVID-19 cases on the increase. The Top 14 hasn't been immune to the new waves hitting France with a handful of Top 14 and PRO D2 players contracting the virus. With cases still rising don't be surprised if we have a few suspensions of play throughout the season. 

Speaking of the implications of COVID-19 on the Top 14 season, the first couple weeks will be a bit of a debacle as teams there are a few teams still involved in the European Rugby Champions and Challenge Cups. This means we may well see a few big-name players rested a week prior to the quarter-finals of the aforementioned competitions. 

There's also talk of an Eight Nations tournament that would involve all the Six Nations sides and South Africa and Fiji. This would rob Top 14 sides of a number of players as the league is loaded with South Africans and Fijians.

On to the fixtures now and the season will kick-off on Friday the 4th of September and run through June 2021. 

To Win Outright
*TBA

Contenders

Clermont
2019/20 Position Before Season Was Called Off: Sixth

The 2018/19 Top 14 runners-up were just starting to hit their straps when the season was called off with Clermont winning three of their last four fixtures. Two of these victories came against big dogs, while their only defeat came at the hands of the pacesetters, Bordeaux.

Clermont have a very handy squad which features experienced campaigners Fritz Lee, Morgan Parra and George Moala. They have also made some sharp off-season signings bringing in Frenchman Sebastian Breezy and Japanese sensation Kotaro Matushima.

Clermont will have a bit of a balancing act on their hands early in the season as they are still in the European Rugby Champions Cup. While you can expect them to start their domestic campaign rather slowly - they're likely to rest a number of players the week before Champions Cup fixtures - they should come good around November.

Bordeaux
2019/20 Position Before Season Was Called Off: First

The Beagles will feel somewhat robbed as they were flying at the top of the table before the 2019/20 Top 14 season was called off. The men from Bordeaux were in sensational touch last term winning 13 and drawing one of their 17 fixtures. 

Bordeaux were dealt a massive blow during the off-season with talismanic Fijian Semi Radradra having moved to the Bristol Bears. They've tried to make up for the loss of backline firepower by bringing in Hurricanes flyer Ben Lam, who while a great try scorer does not possess anywhere near the amount of x-factor as Radradra did. 

Like Clermont, Bordeaux are still involved in Europe and have a fixture coming up against Edinburgh on the 19th of September. Should they win that one then they will have to keep rotating the side as a European Challenge trophy will take precedence over a fast start to the Top 14 season.


Favourite


Toulouse
2019/20 Position Before Season Was Called Off: Seventh

Reigning champions Toulouse will be looking for a quick start to the 2020/21 campaign. They were slow out the blocks during last season's campaign but this was mainly due to them missing a number of stars because of World Cup commitments. 

Speaking of Toulouse's stars, the French giants will be looking at South African dynamo Cheslin Kolbe to spearhead their title challenge. The little man has played in a number of positions for Toulouse and even had a couple runs at ten before the season was called off. 

Like the aforementioned two sides, Toulouse are still involved in Europe and have a home quarter-final against Ulster coming up. So, it's also going to be a bit of a balancing act for them when it comes to squad management during the early salvos of the season.

Dark Horse

Lyon
2019/20 Position Before Season Was Called Off: Second

Lyon have gone from plucky underdogs to real contenders over just a period of just four years. Having been promoted at the end of the 2014/15 season, Lyon have gone on to finish tenth and then make the semis two years running. They were enjoying a fantastic season prior to COVID and were sitting second on the standings with 12 wins from their 17 games.

While they have lost a number of solid players during the off-season - Liam Gill and Sam Hildago-Clyne have both moved onto greener pastures - Lyon have made some solid acquisitions bringing in Mathieu Basteraud and Izack Rodder. 

Verdict: Toulouse
They just posses too deep a squad to be against. As it's the Top 14 and anyone can win it, I'll also be having a crack on Lyon who represent great value at 10/1. 

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