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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
|Saturday 29th November|
|14:45||Toulon vs Clermont Auvergne|
|18:30||Castres vs Racing Metro Paris|
|18:30||La Rochelle vs Bayonne|
|18:30||Lyon vs Montpellier|
|18:30||Oyonnax vs Bordeaux-Begles|
|20:45||Toulouse vs Grenoble|
|Sunday 30th November|
|11:00||Stade Francais vs Brive|
|Friday 19th December|
|15:00||Bayonne vs Bordeaux-Begles|
|Saturday 20th December|
|15:00||Brive vs Oyonnax|
|15:00||Clermont Auvergne vs Castres|
|15:00||Grenoble vs Stade Francais|
|15:00||Montpellier vs Toulouse|
|15:00||Racing Metro Paris vs La Rochelle|
|15:00||Toulon vs Lyon|
|Sunday 28th December|
|16:00||Stade Francais vs Toulon|
|16:00||Castres vs Montpellier|
|16:00||La Rochelle vs Grenoble|
|16:00||Bordeaux-Begles vs Brive|
|16:00||Toulouse vs Racing Metro Paris|
|16:00||Oyonnax vs Bayonne|
|16:00||Lyon vs Clermont Auvergne|
|Saturday 3rd January|
|15:00||Clermont Auvergne vs Toulouse|
|15:00||Castres vs La Rochelle|
|15:00||Lyon vs Stade Francais|
|15:00||Racing Metro Paris vs Bordeaux-Begles|
|Saturday 8th November|
|Bordeaux-Begles 20 - 21 Toulouse|
|Clermont Auvergne 51 - 9 Stade Francais|
|Grenoble 34 - 30 Lyon|
|Oyonnax 37 - 9 La Rochelle|
|Castres 22 - 14 Toulon|
|Racing Metro Paris 27 - 10 Bayonne|
|Friday 7th November|
|Montpellier 10 - 25 Brive|
|Sunday 2nd November|
|Toulon 61 - 28 Grenoble|
|Saturday 1st November|
|Bayonne 24 - 13 Clermont Auvergne|
|Brive 21 - 15 Castres|
|La Rochelle 21 - 15 Montpellier|
|Stade Francais 39 - 22 Bordeaux-Begles|
|Racing Metro Paris 17 - 21 Oyonnax|
|Lyon 17 - 41 Toulouse|
|Sunday 12th October|
|Toulouse 21 - 10 Toulon|
|Saturday 11th October|
|Stade Francais 23 - 19 Racing Metro Paris|
|Clermont Auvergne 30 - 10 La Rochelle|
|Lyon 24 - 19 Bayonne|
|Montpellier 25 - 9 Oyonnax|
|Bordeaux-Begles 59 - 7 Castres|
|Friday 10th October|
|Grenoble 26 - 25 Brive|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com