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PREVIEW: Top 14 – Round 3

With the hold-up to the Rugby World Cup taking priority, we’ve kind of neglected the French domestic rugby scene but that isn’t the case this week as Darry Worthington runs the rule over all the Top 14 Round 3 action.

Jeremy WARD of Stade Francais
Photo by Baptiste Fernandez/Icon Sport

With the hold-up to the Rugby World Cup taking priority, we've kind of neglected the French domestic rugby scene but that isn't the case this week as Darry Worthington runs the rule over all the Top 14 Round 3 action.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

Saturday 2 September

Oyonnax 1/1 | Draw 25/1 | Toulouse 82/100

New boys Oyonnax have enjoyed a decent enough return to the big leagues despite sitting 12th on the Top 14 ladder after two rounds. They managed to start their campaign off with a cracking win that saw them beat Clermont 36-17. They were brought back down to Earth in Round 2, however, as they were beaten 28-8 by Stade Francais. 

Like Oyannax, Toulouse have recorded one win and a lss during the first fortnight of the tournament with the reigning champions going down 26-7 to Bayonne in Round 1 before bouncing back last weekend with a 38-13 victory over Montpellier. 

Toulouse are missing their big guns who are preparing for the World Cup which will leave them vulnerable, especially away from home. My money is on the hosts here.

Verdict: Oyonnax

Castres 32/100 | Draw 28/1 | Bayonne 82/100

We head over to the Stade Pierre Fabre for our next fixture which will see an exciting Bayonne side take on hosts Castres.

The vstors got their campaign off to a spectacular start as they hammered reigning champions Toulouse 26-7 in Round 1. They also gave a decent account of themselves in Round 2 salvaging a losing bonus point from their 19-14 defeat away to Toulon.

Castres have also given a solid account of themselves in the opening two rounds as they pipped Pau 24-23 in Round 1 and then went down 25-23 to Bordeaux in Round 2.

I’m going for the speculator here and backing the visitors at a very tidy price. They were decent enough on the road last term and I can see them giving Castres some problems this Saturday.

Verdict: Bayonne

Pau 46/100 | Draw 24/1 | Lyon 18/10

Pau and Lyon are next up to do battle and both sides will be looking for consistency with the duo having won one and lost one during the opening two weeks of the Top 14 season.

Pau were desperately unlucky to lose their opener as they were just beaten by Castres away from home going down 24-23 in a hotly contested fixture. They managed to bounce back the following week, however, as they beat Racing 19-17.

Lyon have had the tougher early fixtures list to contend with beating fellow big guns Toulon 27-15 in Round 1 before going down 35-14 to last season’s defeated finalists, La Rochelle, 35-14 this past weekend.

I’m going with the away side here as well. They really did look good in Round 1 and if they can rediscover that sort of form then I reckon they’ll have Pau on the ropes.

Verdict: Lyon

Racing 92 1/14 | Draw 43/1 | Perpignan 7/1

We head to Paris for our next fixture which will see Racing Metro take on Perpignan. The visitors have lost their two opening games and already look like they will be battling relegation this term.

While Perpignan have suffered defeats at the hands of Stade Francais (7-29) and Clermont (38-14), Racing have managed to go a bit better beating Bordeaux 23-28 in Round 1 and then claiming a losing bonus point for last weekend’s 19-17 defeat away to Pau.

Perpignan have struggled against the big guns thus far and I can’t see them putting up much of a fight against Racing in Paris.

Verdict: Racing

Stade Francais 49/100 | Draw 24/1 | Montpellier 17/10

Saturday’s penultimate fixture should be an absolute cracker with undefeated ladder-leaders Stade Francais locking horns with an unpredictable Montpellier outfit in the French capital.

The hosts are the only side yet to taste defeat with the Parisians opening up their campaign with a 7-29 away win over Perpignan and then a 28-18 win over new boys Oyonnax.

Montpellier started their campaign with a very impressive 26-15 home win over La Rochelle but were unable to back it up on the road in Round 2 as they went down 38-13 to Toulouse. They have endured a tough start to the season playing last year’s finalists in the opening two rounds and now they have to contend with a fixture against the current ladder leaders.

The hosts are in fine fettle and I can see them making it three wins from three starts against a Montpellier side that tends to struggle on the road.

Verdict: Stade

Clermont 62/100 | Draw 25/1 | La Rochelle 27/20

Saturday’s final fixture sees a struggling Clermont side take on a very tidy if somewhat aging La Rochelle outfit.

Clermont haven’t exactly exercised the demons of last year’s dire Top 14 campaign as they have been hit-and-miss in the opening two weeks of this season beating 36-17 to new boys Oyonnax on the opening weekend and then bouncing back with a 38-14 win over minnows Perpignan.

La Rochelle also have one win from two starts with last season’s finalists going down 26-15 away to Montpellier in Round 1 before beating Lyon 35-14 in Round 2.

At the risk of backing far too many of the way sides this weekend, I’m gonna have a crack at the La Rochelle win. I still think this Clermont side is a mammoth work in progress and will struggle against the better drilled sides like La Rochelle.

Verdict: La Rochelle

Sunday 3 September 

Bordeaux 3/10 | Draw 28/1 | Toulon 11/4

The Round 3 action comes to a close at the Stade Chaban Delmas where Bordeaux will take on Toulon.

The visitors for Saturday have been really tested in the opening two weeks going down 27-15 to Lyon in Round 1 before edging out a 19-14 home win over Bordeaux. They haven’t travelled well in recent years and will need to up their away game here if they are to claim a win.

Bordeaux have also been well and truly tested in the first two rounds going down 23-18 away to Racing before beating Castres 25-23.

I don’t fancy Toulon on the road as they tend to struggle. As such, despite Bordeaux not really impressing thus far, my money is on them claiming the win here.

Verdict: Bordeaux

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