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PREVIEW: 2023/24 French Top 14 – Round 8

The summit of the Top 14 ladder looking characteristically tight heading into round 8, with four leading sides sperated by a single point. Darry Worthington previews this weekend’s action.

Vinaya Habosi of Racing 92 - French Top 14

The summit of the Top 14 ladder looking characteristically tight heading into round 8, with four leading sides sperated by a single point. Darry Worthington previews this weekend’s action.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

It’s tight at the top of the ladder with leaders Stade Francais level on points with Paris rivals Racing 92 and a Castres team that looks the real deal.

All three of the early season pacesetters have tough assignments this weekend with Castres taking on Toulon away from home and Stade facing Pau on the road, while Racing square off with La Rochelle in Paris.

Other clashes of note for the weekend see Montpellier begin a new era against new boys Oyonnax, while Toulouse square off with Castres.

Saturday 25 November

Toulon 1/4 | Draw 22/1 | Castres 32/10 (16:00)

We’ve got a cracker to get us underway this week as an in-form Toulon side take on high-flying Castres at the Stade Mayol. The hosts currently sit four points adrift of their opponents on the Top 14 ladder but will be confident on getting the win here as they head into this one having won their last two fixtures as well as all their home games this term.

Castres also have a healthy record headed into round nine as they have won five out of the seven games they have played thus far. They also head into this one off the break of a very impressive 31-23 win over reigning champions Toulouse.

Like their opponents for Saturday, Toulon also fared well in the previous round as they beat Clermont 27-30. They’ve also been handed a bit of a boost this week signing French international fullback Melvyn Jaminet from Toulouse.

Verdict: Toulon 1/4

They’ve been in good form of late and home ground advantage tends to be a massive factor in these sorts of fixtures. My money is on the hosts claiming the win here.

Bordeaux 1/33 | Draw 40/1 | Perpignan 11/1 (18:00)

We make the trip over to Bordeaux for our next instalment where the Begles will be looking for their fourth win in eight games when they take on a Perpignan side who have just two wins from their opening seven games.

As the above attests to, both teams have struggled during the opening seven weeks of the competition. The hosts’ recent form is nothing to write home about either with Bordeaux going down 20-11 to Pau in Round 6 and then 25-21 to La Rochelle this past weekend.

Perpignan have fared better over the past fortnight giving Toulouse a real run for their money in Round 6 as they went down 43-34 while they beat struggling Montpellier 23-16 this past weekend.

Verdict: Bordeaux 1/33

They may be struggling for form but I can’t see Bordeaux having too many problems against this Perpignan outfit.

Pau 9/20 | Draw 20/1 | Stade 19/10 (18:00)

Log-leaders Stade Francais head to fourth-placed Pau for our next Saturday instalment. Only a solitary point separates the sides on the ladder so while it’s still early in the campaign, this game carries extra weight.

The hosts for this encounter saw their five-game winning streak come to an end this past weekend as they went down 35-16 to perennial giant slayers, Bayonne. While Bayonne did give a good account of themselves, this was far from Pau’s best showing and they will be eager to put in a better shift this Saturday.

Stade also head into this one off the back of a defeat although theirs would have hurt a lot more as they went down 9-13 at home to Racing in the Paris derby.

Verdict: Pau 9/20

I fancy the hosts here. Stade may be running out of a bit of gas and I reckon Pau will take advantage of that this Saturday.

Montpellier 1/11 | Draw 33/1 | Oyonnax 6/1 (18:00)

Montpellier begin a new era this weekend with former coach and ex-England international Richard Cockerell getting the sack following a dismal start to the campaign that saw them lose six of their opening seven fixtures. With Cockerill gone, former Toulon and La Rochelle coach Patrice Collazo has been left with the unenviable task of steadying the Montpellier ship which lies at the bottom of the Top 14 ladder.

The straw that broke the camel’s back for the Montpellier board was their side’s 23-16 loss to struggling Perpignan this past weekend, which was their sixth loss of the campaign.

Oyonnax, while finding life in the French top tier difficult, have enjoyed a better start to the season than Montpellier and currently lie 11th on the table with three wins from their seven games. They also head into this one off the back of an impressive result having beaten Lyon 38-20 this past Saturday.

Verdict: Montpellier 1/11

I’m backing the hosts to win this one. Cockerill had lost the dressing room a long time ago and the players will be keen to make a point of it after his departure. On that note, it’s always amusing to compare pricing across the different competitions, and how much home-ground advantage counts for in France. Would you ever see Newcastle Falcons at 1/11 to beat Gloucester or Bristol? Probably not!

Lyon 21/100 | Draw 25/1 | Bayonne 36/10 (18:00)

Saturday’s penultimate fixture will see a struggling Lyon side lock horns with ninth-placed Bayonne at the Stade Gerland. The hosts lie 12th on the ladder having only managed two wins from seven games while Bayonne are three places above them in ninth having won a fixture more.

The two sides experienced contrasting fortunes in Round 7 with Lyon going down 38-20 to new boys Oyonnax while Bayonne really impressed beating high-flying Pau 35-16.

Verdict: Lyon 21/100

They haven’t been at their best this term but I do fancy Lyon to get the result here.

Toulouse 2/15 | Draw 28/10 | Clermont 52/10 (22:05)

Saturday comes to a close with a clash between traditional Top 14 heavyweights Toulouse and Clermont Auvergne. Both sides have had decent if not spectacular starts to their respective campaigns, both winning four of their first seven fixtures. Clermont, however, sit a point and a position above Toulouse in sixth place due to their superior bonus points record.

Both sides head into this one off the back of disappointing defeats with Clermont going down 27-30 to Toulon at home, while Toulouse missed out on even a losing bonus point as they were beaten 31-23 by Castres.

Verdict: Toulouse 2/15

Toulouse should be far too much for a Clermont outfit that struggles on the road.

Sunday 26 November

Racing 46/100 | Draw 20/1 | La Rochelle 19/10 (22:05)

Things come to a close in Paris where Racing 92 will be looking to jump to the Top of the ladder when they take on a La Rochelle outfit that currently resides eighth on the ladder.

The hosts for Sunday’s encounter have enjoyed a far better start to their campaign winning five of their opening seven fixtures. They also head into this one off their best result of the season, registering a 9-13 away win over ladder-leading Stade Francais this past Saturday.

La Rochelle have not fared as well as their foes for Sunday’s encounter, losing four of their first seven fixtures. They are coming off a positive fortnight, however, beating Bayonne 18-15 in Round 6 and then Bordeaux 25-21 this past weekend.

Verdict: Racing 46/100

Racing look the real deal this term and I cannot see them losing this one.

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