There's plenty to look forward to in the French Top 14 this weekend with Bordeaux looking to pull clear of the pack. Darry Worthington previews.
The French Top 14 enters its 15th round this coming weekend and there are some cracking fixtures in-store with Racing Metro facing Clemont and Toulouse hosting Montpellier.
Saturday 8 January
Castres 24/100 | Draw 25/1 | Stade 32/10 (16:00)
We kick things off over at the Stade Pierre Fabre where fourth-placed Castres will take on ninth-placed Stade. Only ten points separate the sides on the Top 14 ladder, which illustrates just how tight things are this season.
The hosts come into this one off the back of a fantastic 31-30 home win over La Rochelle. It was a truly entertaining fixture with Castres staging a second-half comeback to take the spoils.
Stade, while not as impressive last weekend, also managed to secure a win as they huffed and puffed to a 27-17 victory over minnows Perpignan.
They were solid last week and I fully expect Castres to make it back-to-back home wins here.
Lyon 1/10 | Draw 28/1 | Pau 6/1 (18:00)
We head to Lyon for our next fixture. The hosts, who currently sit sixth on the table, will tackle eighth-placed Pau.
Lyon arguably had their best game of the season this past weekend as they beat Racing 37-35 in an enthralling encounter with a spectacular offload from off-season signing Josua Tuisova setting up a late try that secured the win.
Pau also impressed last weekend as they saw off Brive 43-20. Their kicking was on point as they converted all four of their tries while also knocking over all three of their penalites.
I reckon we will see a rather tight affair here but, it’s one Lyon should win.
Biarritz 39/100 | Draw 20/1 | Perpignan 43/20 (18:00)
We’ve got a battle of the new boys next up as 14th placed Biarritz take on 13th-placed Perpignan in the battle of the cellar-dwellers.
It has been a very poor season for both these teams with both only recording four wins from their 14 outings. They also have the worst points differentials in the league with Biarritz sitting on -124 and Perpignan on -140.
There is some hope, however, as they both gave decent accounts of themselves last weekend with Biarritz going down by just three points to Bordeaux and Perpignan going down by ten to Stade Francais.
Biarritz looked the better team last weekend and with home ground advantage on their side, they should take this one.
Brive 14/10 | Draw 20/1 | Bordeaux 61/100 (18:00)
Next up we have 12th-placed Brive taking on ladder-leaders, Bordeaux. The hosts are being drawn into a relegation scrap as they are now just two points off last-placed Biarritz after they went down 43-20 to Pau last weekend.
Bordeaux, on the other hand, are flying high at the top of the standings and are five points clear of Toulouse after their narrow 30-27 win over Biarritz. They will need to sharpen up their defence for this one as they leaked far too many points last Sunday against pretty ordinary opposition.
Brive are struggling at the moment and I simply cannot see them getting one over Bordeaux.
Racing 1/4 | Draw 22/1 | Clermont 32/10 (22:05)
There’s a big-ticket affair next up as traditional powerhouses Racing and Clermont square off in Paris, where there will be no love lost between two sides desperate for points. The hosts currently sit tenth on the Top 14 ladder and need to start picking up wins if they are to challenge for a playoff berth. Clermont are seventh but are only seven points behind their opponents for this weekend.
In terms of last weekend’s results, Racing were unlucky in defeat as they went down by two points to Lyon while Clermont made a statement by beating Toulouse 16-13.
These big games usually tend to go the way of the hosting side which is why my money is on Racing here.
Sunday 9 January
Toulon | Draw | La Rochelle (19:00) *Bettin tba
We have another big game next up with Toulon taking on La Rochelle in Saturday’s final fixture. The hosts currently lie 11th on the log and are only three points adrift of bottom spot. They do have a couple games in hand, however, as a few of their fixtures, including the one they were meant to play last weekend, have been postponed – with this fixture also seemingly threatened by postponement.
La Rochelle sit a lot prettier in fourth place. They head into this one having gone down 31-30 to Clermont this past weekend. That defeat broke their two-game winning streak.
I’m going to have a small crack on La Rochelle here as I think they offer some decent value, especially on the plus line.
Toulouse 1/16 | Draw 28/1 | Montpellier 8/1 (22:05)
The round comes to a close at the Stade Ernest-Wallon where Toulouse will be looking to close the gap on log-leaders Bordeaux when they take on a Montpellier side that are only a point behind them in third.
Montpellier were out of action last weekend as their clash with Toulon was called off due to a COVID outbreak. They did fare well in their previous game beating Biarritz 12-27 away from home.
Toulouse had a tough time of it in the New Year’s round as they went down 16-13 to Clermont. This was their second consecutive Top 14 loss as they had gone down 17-7 to Bordeaux in their previous domestic outing.
While they have been a bit patchy of late, I expect Toulouse to sneak a win over Montpellier.