Hollywoodbets Sports Blog: French Top 14: Round 1 Preview

French Top 14: Round 1 Preview

The 2020/21 Top 14 season will get underway on Friday the 4th of September. Darry Worthington previews all the Round 1 action below.

Image copyright - Steve Haag Sports

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone
The Top 14 makes its long-awaited return this week with Round 1 of the 2020 season kicking off this coming Friday. Last season was called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is still having an effect on French rugby with the Stade Francais versus Bordeaux Beagles game being postponed due to a number of Stade players testing positive for the virus.

There are still six games for rugby fans and punters to sink their teeth into, with the pick of this weekend's action seeing Clermont take on Toulouse. 

Montpellier v Pau
Friday 4 September
GCL Stadium

To Win (80 Mins)
Montpellier 1/10
Draw 30/1
Pau 11/2

The Round 1 action will get underway at the GCL Stadium on Friday the 4th of September with Montpellier taking on Pau. The hosts come into this one as red-hot favourites with the bookmakers and are trading at 1/10 for the win at the time of writing. 

Montpellier posses a start-studded squad that was strengthened significantly during the off-season with the signings of World Cup winners Handre Pollard and Cobus Reinach.

Pau have lost some key players during the off-season with Ben Smith, Benson Stanley and Colin Slade having all moved on.

Verdict: Montpellier 
The handicap being bandied about at most bookmakers for this one is in the mid-teens which is rather high. While Montpellier are capable of clearing this line with their lethal back division, as it's opening week I'm going to take the safe option and have a go on the Montpellier straight win and add it to a couple rugby multis. 

La Rochelle v Toulon
Saturday 5 September
Stade Marcel-Delfrandre

To Win (80 Mins)
La Rochelle 4/10
Draw 20/1
Toulon 39/20

Saturday's first fixture will see La Rochelle tackle Toulon at the Stade Marcel-Delfrandre. Both teams enjoyed decent enough campaigns before last season was called off as they both won nine of their opening 17 games.

La Rochelle lost a number of seasoned stars during the off-season with veterans Brock James, Vicent Rattez and Jone Laliiko all leaving the club. They have, however, made some shrewd acquisitions bringing in Dillyn Leyds, Ramon Rhule and Will Skelton.

Strangely enough, Toulon have been one of the least active clubs during the transfer season with the mega-rich club only signing four players. Most of the signings are rather underwhelming although capturing Isaia Toeava from Clermont could prove to be a rather shrewd move. 

Verdict: La Rochelle 4/10
La Rochelle are an extremely strong side on home soil and while I expect this to be a real tussle, I can see the hosts coming out on top here.

Agen v Castres
Saturday 5 September
Stade Armandie

To Win (80 Mins)
Agen 13/20
Draw 20/1
Castres 5/4

Moving on now and the next Saturday fixture will see Agen play host to Castres. Agen will be rather relieved that last season was called off as they were second to last on the log and looked like real relegation fodder having lost 11 of their 17 games. Castres didn't fare all too well either and we 10th when the season came to a surprise close. 

Both teams were pretty active during the transfer window with Agen bringing in 11 players including Fijian Tevita Railevu, while Castres made a whopping 14 signings including a couple Fijian newcomers.

Verdict: Agen 13/20
Again, I'm backing a home win.

Jockeys Ride HorsesLyon v Racing Metro 92
Saturday 5 September
Matmut Stadium Gerland

To Win (80 Mins)
Lyon 6/10
Draw 20/1
Racing 14/10

Lyon will be looking to make another fast start to the Top 14 season when they play host to Racing Metro in Saturday's penultimate fixture.

Lyon were having a great time of it before last season was called off and were holding a lofty position of second on the log after winning 12 of their 17 games. Racing were also doing rather well and were only a position below Lyon on the log.

Verdict: Racing 14/10
Generally, I'd be all over the hosts but, apparently, a few of their players won't be available as they have contracted the coronavirus. As such, I'll be having a crack on the Racing win.  

Brive v Bayonne
Sunday 6 August
Stade Amedee-Domenech

To Win (80 Mins)
Brive 3/10
Draw 20/1
Bayonne 24/10

The penultimate game of the round will see Brive take on Bayonne. Both teams in the bottom half of the table when the 2019/20 season was called and had only won seven of their first 14 fixtures.

In terms of off-season recruitment, Bayonne managed to snap up the signature of New Zealand Sevens start Joe Ravouvou while Brive picked up former North Harbour man Brandon Nansen.

Verdict: Brive 3/10
I'm expecting a tight old affair here. If the handicap opens up at anything over four points then I'll be all over the plus.

Clermont v Toulouse
Sunday 6 August
Stade Marcell-Michellin

To Win (80 Mins)
Clermont 9/20
Draw 20/1
Toulouse 18/10

The round comes to a close with what should have been a cracker of a game but with Toulouse said to have a handful of players suffering with COVID-19, Racing Metro could well have the upper hand here. 

Both teams were rather slow off the blocks last season but started to come good just before the campaign came to a close. They both feature superstars of the game with Cheslin Kolbe lining up for Toulouse and Kurtley Beale in line to make his debut for Clermont.

Verdict: Clermont 9/20
Toulouse will have had a rather difficult build-up to this one and I can see Clermont taking advantage of that fact.

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