Top 14 Round Seven: Preview
The Top 14 weekend sees defending champions Toulouse host leaders Toulon while the stakes are high in the Basque derby in Biarritz.
Last Updated: 28/09/12 1:56pm
The Top 14 weekend sees defending champions Toulouse host leaders Toulon on Saturday while the stakes are high in Sunday's Basque derby in Biarritz.
But first up is the Friday night clash between high-flying Clermont Auvergne and a Stade Francais side who are frantically trying to climb further away from the relegation zone.
Vern Cotter's hosts currently sit in second place with 23 points, four points behind Toulon, following their 44-20 victory over Grenoble last weekend, while tenth-placed visitors go into the game on a high after beating Perpignan 34-24 last time.
There were fears that Toulon's trip to Toulouse would become a non-event when RCT coach Bernard Laporte announced he was resting a raft of his top players after a perfect six wins on the trot.
But the visitors are still sending a star-studded team, with former Toulouse favourite Fred Michalak returning home to start at fly-half, while the squad also features names like Matt Giteau, Gethin Jenkins, Carl Hayman and Mathieu Bastareaud.
Elsewhere, play-off hopefuls Montpellier and Castres - level on 15 points after six rounds - will do battle on the Mediterranean coast.
The seventh-placed hosts go into the clash on the back of a 23-15 win at Bordeaux last week, while sixth-placed Castres will be looking to bounce back from a 33-12 defeat at Toulon.
Ninth-placed Perpignan will expect to win at home to rock-bottom Mont-de-Marsan, who desperately need a first win of the campaign to revive their morale and their chances of avoiding relegation.
The visitors latest loss was a 28-16 home reverse to Agen, while Perpignan claimed a bonus point in their 34-24 defeat to Stade Francais in Paris last time.
Fifth-placed Racing Metro travel to Grenoble in good form, having posted a narrow 13-12 home victory over Biarritz last week, while they have already won twice and picked up a bonus point on the road.
But after completely dominating Stade Francais at home last month, Grenoble - who have the joint-best attack in the championship so far - will be hoping for a repeat against the other club from Paris.
After a slow start to the season, Agen have picked up back-to-back wins over Grenoble and Mont-de-Marsan to rise to 11th in the table and will fancy their chances against a 12th-placed Bordeaux-Begles side that have won just once in their last five visits to this weekend's opponents.
It is a crucial clash for both teams as the losers risk dropping into the relegation zone while the winners should climb into mid-table.
Sunday's Basque derby, which has been moved from Spain back to Biarritz, is a huge game for Bayonne, who have had a terrible start to the season.
The visitors sit second-from-bottom in the table, with five defeats from their opening six games, the latest a 35-6 home trouncing by Toulouse, while fourth-placed Biarritz will be looking to bounce back from their narrow defeat to Racing last time.