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Top 14 Round Six: Preview
Bayonne look to turn their season around
The Top 14 weekend kicks off with a crunch game at Stade Jean Dauger when struggling Bayonne are aiming to get their season back on track against a Toulouse side smarting from a heavy loss last week.
Despite putting in some solid defensive efforts, Bayonne have found it tough to discover their rhythm in early season.
After four defeats, including two at home (13-6 against Clermont and 25-18 against Racing-Metro), in their opening five games Bayonne sit in 11th spot.
But things will not get any easier on Friday night against a Toulouse side looking to bounce back from their thrashing against Perpignan.
The good news for the visitors is that hooker Christopher Tolofua is fit to play, meaning there is no need for forwards coach William Servat to lace up his boots.
Toulon will put their perfect record to the test when they tackle Castres in only their second home game this term.
Both of last season's clashes between the two sides ended on level terms, and this encounter is likely to be as equally close.
Castres will take heart from the fact that they have lost just twice in their last seven visits to Toulon, while they ended Biarritz's unbeaten run last week.
Toulon No.8 Chris Masoe is set face his former side, while Frederic Michalak and Jonny Wilkinson are set to link up for the first time at half-back.
For the visitors, lock Rodrigo Capo-Ortega returns but Mathias Roland, Ibrahim Diarra, Daniel Kirkpatrick and Max Evans are amongst the absentees due to injury. Romain Teulet is being rested.
Fresh from their win over Stade Francais, Bordeaux-Begles will fancy their chances against a Montpellier side that have yet to win on the road this year.
UBB welcome back Lachie Munro while Montpellier are bolstered by the return of Pumas prop Maximiliano Bustos.
Second-placed Clermont are unlikely to be troubled by surprise package Grenoble.
Clermont might have left it very late to get the better of Mont-de-Marsan last time out but they have not lost at Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin in three years.
Wales full-back Lee Byrne and Georgia prop Davit Zirakashvili are both injury absentees for Clermont. Byrne sustained a twisted ankle and Zirakashvili injured his ribs last weekend.
Clermont are, however, boosted by the return from injury of hooker Benjamin Kayser, ex-All Black winger Sitiveni Sivivatu, Scotland lock Nathan Hines and full-back Anthony Floch.
The bottom two sides in the Top 14 will face off when Mont-de-Marsan entertain Agen.
Not much has gone right for Mont-de-Marsan, who came within 10 minutes of claiming their first points last week only to wilt under the pressure from Clermont at the death.
Agen, who got their first win last week against Grenoble, will know this a chance to climb out of the relegation zone.
Stade Francais could drop into the relegation zone should they lose to Perpignan.
Stade have recorded just one win so far this season - a far cry from the ambitions presented by new boss Richard Pool-Jones at the start of the season.
Perpignan, themselves, started the season in uneasy fashion but they head to capital feeling reassured after completely dominating Toulouse last week.
Stade Français have been struck by injuries with scrum-half Julien Dupuy ruled out for three weeks while lock Gerhard Mostert is set to an eight-week layoff after shoulder surgery.
Racing Metro have started the season well but their form will be tested by a resurgent Biarritz.BO conceded their first defeat last week but will be desperate to regain forward momentum eights days ahead of the all-important Basque derby.
Biarritz have not enjoyed their recent trips to Colombes though, having lost on all three visits there since Racing's return to the top divisiion.
The home side are struggling with a few injuries however (Wisniewski , Dambielle, Tuugahala, Vulivuli, Leo'o and Descons ) and will be eagerly awaiting the arrival of new signing Olly Barkley in a fortnight.
Biarritz will be without veteran lock Jérôme Thion, who has an Achilles tendon injury. Raphaël Lakafia leads the side while internationals Wenceslas Lauret, Iain Balshaw and Damien Traille ride the bench.
Biarritz: Haylett-Petty, Baby, Gimenez, Burotu, Brew, Peyrelongue, Lesgourgues, Lakafia (cap), Guyot, M.Lund, Taele, E.Lund, Broster, Heguy, Blaauw
Replacements: Genevois, Barcella, Dubarry, Lauret, Traille, Ngwenya, Balshaw, Gomez Kodela
Results last season: Racing 28-9 at home; Biarritz won 22-13 at home
Prediction: Racing have looked good so far. Racing by seven points
Kick-off: 20.40 (18.40 GMT)
Referee: Laurent Cardona
Top 14 Table
|Friday 5th September|
|19:45||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|
|19:45||Toulon vs Bordeaux-Begles|
|Saturday 13th September|
|16:00||Toulouse vs Clermont Auvergne|
|16:00||Oyonnax vs Grenoble|
|16:00||Bayonne vs Brive|
|16:00||Bordeaux-Begles vs Montpellier|
|16:00||Toulon vs Stade Francais|
|16:00||Racing Metro Paris vs Lyon|
|16:00||La Rochelle vs Castres|
|Saturday 20th September|
|15:00||Brive vs Toulon|
|15:00||Grenoble vs Bayonne|
|15:00||Clermont Auvergne vs Lyon|
|15:00||Montpellier vs Stade Francais|
|15:00||Racing Metro Paris vs Toulouse|
|15:00||La Rochelle vs Bordeaux-Begles|
|15:00||Castres vs Oyonnax|
|Saturday 27th September|
|16:00||Bayonne vs Toulouse|
|16:00||Brive vs Bordeaux-Begles|
|16:00||Oyonnax vs Clermont Auvergne|
|16:00||Lyon vs Castres|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com