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PREVIEW: 2023/24 French Top 14 – Round 13

Siya Kolisi of Racing 92
Image Copyright - Steve Haag Sports

Wth the Six Nations looming large, the big guns in the Top 14 make hay before stars link up with their various national teams. Darry Worthington previews round 14.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

There’s already a big-name absence in the French top tier with the country’s rugby poster boy, Antoine Du Pont linked up with the French Sevens team. This is a blow to reigning champions Toulouse who take on ladder-leaders, Racing 92 in the pick of this weekend’s action.

Saturday 27 January

Bordeaux 21/100 | Draw 22/1 | Stade 37/10

The Top 14 organisers have offered up an immaculate fixtures list this weekend with the opening Round 13 game an absolute cracker seeing second-placed Bordeaux take on third-placed Stade Francais.

The two sides have been involved in Champions Cup action over the past fortnight with Bordeaux hammering English outfit Saracens 55-5 in Round 3 and then going down 46-40 to the Blue Bulls in Pretoria. The win and the losing bonus point were enough to see them advance through to the knockout phase of the competition as top seeds in Pool 1.

Racing also registered a loss and a win in their final two Champions Cup pool fixtures, going down 29-25 to Bath before bouncing back with a 48-26 win over the Cardiff Blues. The results were enough to also get them through to the next phase of the ‘comp.

Verdict: Bordeaux 21/100
Both teams know how to rack up the points so I expect this one to be pretty high-scoring. Four of the last five games between the sides have also been one by the team with hosting rights so I expect that trend to continue here as well.

Montpellier 29/100 | Draw 22/1 | Pau 28/10

Lowly Montpellier will be looking to close the gap on 13th-placed Lyon when they play hosts to a Pau outfit that currently finds themselves sitting pretty in sixth position on the Top 14 ladder.

Both sides completed their pool phase European campaigns this past weekend with Montpellier going down 27-19 to Italian outfit Treviso while Pau beat Italian opposition in the form of Zebere, edging the URC side out 28-27 in a thrilling encounter.

The pair were struggling on the domestic front before the European break with Pau coming off defeats to Oyonnax (34-14) and La Rochelle (20-29), while Montpellier were slightly better going down 20-18 to fellow strugglers Lyon and then beating Toulon 27-17.

Verdict: Montpellier 29/100
They’ve had a mini resurgence in the Top 14 over the past month or so winning their last three fixtures on home soil. I’m backing them to extend that run to four this weekend

Bayonne 2/13 | Draw 28/1| Oyonnax 46/10

It’s over to the Parc des Sports Jean Dauger next where 10th-placed Bayonne will take on 12th-placed Oyonnax. Four points separate the sides on the ladder and this one could well have an impact on the battle to avoid relegation, even this early in the season.

The hosts produced a bit of a mixed bag in the final two rounds of their Champions Cup campaign going down 61-14 to Northampton in Round 3 before bouncing back with an impressive 40-17 win over the Exeter Chiefs. Their Round 4 win over the English side was not enough to see them advance to the next round of the comp, however, and they’ll drop down to the Challenge Cup play-offs.

Oyonnax also claimed a win and a loss as they closed out their Challenge Cup campaign going down 38-7 to the Sharks in Durban before registering a 28-27 win over the Free State Cheetahs. Their win over the Cheetahs was their only one of their Challenge Cup campaign and it wasn’t enough to see them advance to the next round of the competition.

Verdict: Bayonne 2/13
They’re the better side for my money and can see them taking this one at a canter.

Castres 34/100 | Draw 22/1 | Clermont 49/20

Saturday’s action continues over at the Stade Pierre Fabre where seventh-placed Castres will take on ninth-placed Clermont.

The two sides managed to advance from the Challenge Cup pool phase with Clermont finishing as runners-up in Pool 3 while Castres finished fourth in the same pool. Castres closed their pool phase campaign with a 28-6 win over Georgian outfit Black Lion but were brought back down with a crash after a 35-5 loss to Gallagher Premiership Gloucester.

Clermont finished their European pool campaign the stronger of the two sides beating Black Lion 3-36 and the Scarlets 38-17.

Verdict: Castres 34/100
I expect this one to be tightly contested and my money’s on the hosts edging a cagey old affair. In the Top 14, always err on the side of the home team. 

Lyon 17/100 | Draw25/1 | Perpignan 44/10

It’s a battle of the bottom quarter of the table with 13th-placed Lyon perennial relegation candidates Perpignan, who are only a point above their opponents in 11th place.

The first half of the Top 14 season has not been kind to either side with Lyon having lost eight of their first 12 while Perpignan have lost seven.

In terms of the two sides’ recent performances, the duo were have been involved in European action over the past two weeks with Lyon managing to arrest their poor run of domestic form to qualify for the next phase of the Champions Cup with a 34-20 win over Irish club Connacht. It was not all smooth sailing for the Le Wolves as they went down 39-24 to Saracens the following week.

Perpignan, on the other hand, bowed out of the Challenge Cup with a whimper finishing their pool phase campaign at the foot of Pool 2 having lost all of their fixtures including two games of the past fortnight, which saw them go down 23-32 to a poor Newcastle Falcons outfit and then 25-3 to the Ospreys. Things are set to get worse for them after this weekend as well as it looks like French Under 20s star Posolo Tuilagi will link up with the senior national team for their Six Nations campaign.

Verdict: Lyon 17/100
Home ground advantage will be a the big factor here and I can see Lyon making the most of it by claiming a comfortable win.

Toulon 62/100 | Draw 20/1 | La Rochelle 14/10

The penultimate game of the weekend should be an absolute cracker with a stacked Toulon side taking on a La Rochelle outfit loaded with international talent.

The hosts have been struggling of late losing their last three matches across all competitions. A win of a seemingly rejuvenated La Rochelle side would be just the tonic for Toulon.

In terms of the sides’ most recent fixtures, the duo were involved in Champions Cup action over the past two weeks with Toulon bombing out of Europe entirely as they finished with defeats to Munster (18-29) and Glasgow (29-5) ending their campaign with no wins from their four matches.

Conversely, La Rochelle managed to sneak into the next phase of the tournament with two solid wins as they beat the Leicester Tigers 45-12 and the Sale Sharks 24-37.

Verdict: Toulon 62/100
I’m expecting a big response from Toulon who now know they only have the Top 14 to focus on this term.

Sunday 2 January

Racing 29/100| Draw 22/1 | Toulouse 28/10

Our big ticket item for the weekend closes the round off as well with log-leaders Racing 92 taking on reigning champions Toulouse in the French capital. The hosts have been in fine fettle this term winning eight of their 12 domestic games, while Toulouse have won a game fewer. Despite the magnitude of this game, it’s unlikely to be a cagey affair with both teams having highly entertaining backlines.

Like all the French big-name sides, Racing and Toulouse were involved in Champions Cup action over the past fortnight with Racing bouncing back from a 29-25 defeat to Bath by beating Cardiff 48-26. The final-round win was enough to see Racing advance from the pool phase by the skin of their teeth.

Ironically Racing will actually square off with Toulouse in the first set of Champions Cup play-off fixtures with Toulouse topping the Pool 2 standings with four wins from four games which included their 24-48 Round 3 victory over Ulster and a 31-19 Round 4 win over Bath.

Verdict: Racing 92 29/100
Again, I have to go with the home side. I reckon Racing will win a high-scoring thriller. My choice of markets for this one, however, would be the Racing total over points as well as the match totals points via the Live In-Play platform

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