Top 14: Clermont out to maintain their impressive run of form
Last Updated: October 26, 2012 10:29am
Aurelien Rougerie: Starts on the wing for Clermont
High-flying Clermont will look to carry their impressive Heineken Cup form into the Top 14 when they face Biarritz on Friday.
Clermont recorded bonus-point wins over the Scarlets and Exeter in Europe - while they have been no slouches domestically.
Vern Cotter's side currently sit in third spot, just four points behind leaders Toulon - however Biarritz are the last side to have beaten Clermont at their Stade Michelin fortress, way back in November 2009.
Following their European exploits, Clermont have rung the changes with David Skrela, Elvis Vermeulen and Vincent Debaty among those handed starts - while Aurelien Rougerie shifts to the wing.
Biarritz have made two changes to the side that beat Zebre in the Heineken Cup. Former Clermont utility back Benoît Baby replaces Aled Brew on the wing while Arnaud Heguy starts at hooker ahead of the benched Benoit August.
While Clermont and Biarritz get the return to domestic action back underway on Friday, the pick of the fixtures comes in Paris - where Stade Francais and Toulousewill slug it out.
The desperately inconsistent Stade are hunting a win that could well kick-start their season, while Toulouse arrive in the capital on the back of two wins in the Heineken Cup.
Toulouse will be without injured skipper Thierry Dusautoir and suspended hooker Christopher Tolofua, though, while Gurtho Steenkamp, Gary Botha, Patricio Albacete and Louis Picamoles all missed training.
Top club Toulon have lost just once this season - and that is unlikely to change when they entertain Bayonne.
Bayonne have enjoyed a resurgence in form following consecutive wins in the Top 14 (including the Basque derby) and two victories in the Challenge Cup.
However Toulon have a full-squad to choose from and welcome back skipper Joe van Nierkerk from a series of injuries.
Bayonne welcome back fly-half Jacques-Louis Potgieter but centre Manu Ahotaeiloa and prop Neemia Tialata are injured.
Bottom club Mont-de-Marsan will fancy their chances of their first win of the season when they entertain a Bordeaux-Begles side that has not been great on the road.
Mont-de-Marsan will also take confidence from the fact they have won the last 11 games between these sides.
Bordeaux are without injured prop Hikairo Forbes, wing Blair Connor and flyer Rafael Carballo but lock Cameron Treloar returns to the bench after a three-week ban.
Agen will look to continue their winning run when they welcome Castres to Stade Armandie.
Agen lost their opening four games of the season, but they have responded with three successive wins.
Castres' record in Agen is not a good one with a four draws and 16 losses in their last 20 visits to Stade Armandie.
Montpellier should have too much class for a Grenoble side that has yet to win on the road this season, while Perpignancould leapfrog Racing Metro in the standings with victory at Stade Aime Giral.