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Top 14 Round Three: Preview
Stade look to address poor record on the road
Stade Francais' dismal record on the road will be under the spotlight when they travel to Top 14 newcomers Grenoble on Friday.
Stade have one each of the four previous encounters between the two sides in the past decade - while the Parisians have not lost in their last five visits to Grenoble.
However Grenoble - under the guidance of former Stade stalwart Fabrice Landreau - will fancy their chances given the face the visitors have managed just one win in their last 20 games on the road.
Grenoble sharpshooter Valentin Courrent starts at scrum-half while Shaun Sowerby, who started his career in France with Stade, is at No.8.
Felipe Contepomi is at ten for the visitors in the absence of the injured Jules Plisson.
Early season leaders Biarritz host defending champions Toulouse this weekend while struggling Perpignan must travel to Clermont.
It's been four years since Biarritz started the season with back-to-back wins, and counting their Amlin Challenge Cup title of last season, the Basques are on a winning streak not seen for ages.
Toulouse have won the last eight games between these sides in all competitions and six of the last eight games in Biarritz.
But the defending champions struggled in their opening games, needing a late surge from their bench to win at home against Castres and Mont-de-Marsan.
Castres will play their second consecutive game at home - where they have lost just once in two years - when they entertain Bayonne.
It's been a frustrating start to the season for Castres, though, who lost in Toulouse in the dying minutes and threw away a winning bonus point against Grenoble last week by conceding a late try.
Bayonne have impressed in defence so far having given up just two tries and three penalties in two games. However, they have yet to score a try and, considering Castres' defensive record, they might go a third week without a five-pointer.
Benjamin Boyet makes his return to the extended Bayonne squad from injury this week while former Hurricanes fly-half Daniel Kirkpatrick could make his debut for Castres.
Clermont will host Perpignan in the battle of former champions at Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin.
Perpignan have endured a miserable time over the past two years and, so far, not much has gone right this season with two defeats and no tries.
Fortress Marcel Michelin, where Clermont have not lost since 2009, is not the place to expect to get their season back on track, especially since Clermont have the best defence in the league this term.
Title favourites Clermont play their first game at home having claimed victory in Bayonne and a losing bonus point in Montpellier last week.
The hosts have a sizeable injury list though with Julien Bardy, Lee Byrne and Julien Bonnaire all ruled out while Aurélien Rougerie and David Skrela are doubtful.
Agen have endured a poor start to the season and things are unlikely to improve against Montpellier.
Philippe Sella's team have lost both their games this season and they have not tasted victory in Montpellier since 1997.
Montpellier got their first points of the season last week with a solid home win over Clermont, which would have come as massive boost after a poor pre-season and a big defeat in Paris.
Racing Metro 92 and Bordeaux have both had mixed starts to the season.
Racing tasted victory on the road to Agen, despite an unimpressive display, and then suffered defeat at home to Toulon in a thrilling game, while Bordeaux bounced back from a surprise loss to Grenoble to battle their way past Perpignan.
Racing captain Jacques Cronje has been ruled out with a neck injury. He joins Mikaele Tuugahala, Albert Vulivuli , Benjamin Fall and Johnny Leo'o in the treatment room. Sireli Bobo, Andrea Lo Cicero, Sébastien Descons and Jone Qovu have returned to training but are not yet match fit.
Toulon have never won in Mont-de-Marsan but they've never arrived with a team like this.
Toulon hit the road for the third time in as many weeks but a bonus-point win could take them to the top of the standings.
After grinding past Perpignan on the opening weekend, Bernard Laporte's team showed they can play ball by running two excellent tries past Racing last week.
For Mont-de-Marsan, the tough start to the season is set to continue as they must face another heavyweight club after going down to Toulouse and Biarritz.
Toulon's travelling army has seen Frederic Michalak included in the extended squad for the first time this season.
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|Friday 22nd August|
|18:45||Toulouse vs Castres|
|Saturday 23rd August|
|12:45||Brive vs Clermont Auvergne|
|16:30||Bayonne vs Oyonnax|
|16:30||Bordeaux-Begles vs Racing Metro Paris|
|16:30||Montpellier vs Grenoble|
|16:30||Toulon vs La Rochelle|
|18:45||Stade Francais vs Lyon|
|Friday 29th August|
|18:45||Clermont Auvergne vs Montpellier|
|Saturday 30th August|
|12:45||La Rochelle vs Toulouse|
|16:30||Castres vs Bay Of Plenty|
|16:30||Grenoble vs Bordeaux-Begles|
|16:30||Oyonnax vs Stade Francais|
|16:30||Lyon vs Brive|
|18:45||Racing Metro Paris vs Toulon|
|Friday 5th September|
|18:45||Montpellier vs Castres|
|Saturday 6th September|
|12:45||Brive vs Toulouse|
|15:00||Clermont Auvergne vs Racing Metro Paris|
|16:30||Stade Francais vs Bayonne|
|16:30||Grenoble vs La Rochelle|
|16:30||Lyon vs Oyonnax|
|18:45||Toulon vs Bordeaux-Begles|
|Saturday 13th September|
|16:00||Toulouse vs Clermont Auvergne|
|16:00||Bayonne vs Brive|
|16:00||Bordeaux-Begles vs Montpellier|
|16:00||Oyonnax vs Grenoble|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com