Top 14 preview: Round 15
Last Updated: 04/01/13 11:20am
Leading Biarritz: Forward Imanol Harinordoquy
Top 14 action continues as Toulon look to keep their lead at the summit ahead of the final break before the Heineken Cup Pool run-in.
The league leaders face Racing-Metro on Sunday after a round that sees Biarritz hosting Agen on Friday before five tasty fixtures dominate Saturday.
Biarritz v Agen
Parc Des Sports D'Aguilera
Biarritz know that anything other than a win would dent their slim hopes of making the play-offs when they run out to face Agen.
BO sit eleven points off the top four and came worryingly close to being worse off than that when they squeezed past Mont-de-Marsan last week.
Team news sees a strong backline of Lesgourgues, Peyrelongue, Brew, Traille, Baby, Ngwenya and Balshaw that will be hunting the bonus point.
Agen meanwhile name Ben Seymour at fly-half as they look to bounce back from a disappointing 40-6 loss at Racing.
Clermont v Montpellier
Parc Des Sports Marcel Michelin
One of the matches of the weekend sees the yellow machine face off with Montpol at Parc Des Sports Marcel Michelin, with both teams entering in red hot form following Round 14.
Clermont demolished Bayonne 48-3 while Montpellier beat Stade Francais 54-16 with consummate ease in two results that sent a quiet message to the other play-off contenders.
Alex Tulou, Giorge Jgenti, Juan Figallo and Agustin Creevy are all out for the visitors this week though which enhances ASM's favourite tag this Saturday. Clermont meanwhile are boosted by the return to training of dynamic France loosehead prop Thomas Domingo.
Stade Francais v Bayonne
As mentioned, these two were on the receiving end of two hammerings in their most recent outings so victory is all the more critical at Stade Charlety.
It's 10th versus 11th on Saturday and Bayonne are boosted by the return of Joe Rokocoko and Manu Ahotaeiloa.
Stade Francias no doubt realise that Heineken Cup qualification is now down to whether their Amlin Challenge Cup form continues as domestically they continue to struggle.
Perpignan v Bordeaux-Begles
Stade Aimé Giral
USAP are missing hooker Guilhem Guirado and fly-half James Hook with respective shin and shoulder injuries as they look to bounce back from a dismal showing in Toulon. Scotland's Al Strokosch and former Gloucester team-mate Luke Narraway are included.
Bordeaux-Begles fell to Grenoble in the last round but that is not embarrassing by any stretch of the imagination and they may fancy their chances of a big upset at Aimé Giral.
Grenoble v Castres
It hasn't been the greatest build-up to a game for Castres as reports that Rory Kockott was eager to leave for Racing-Metro were countered by Castres, who stated "this player has a contract to remain with Castres for another year if the club qualifies for the Heineken Cup".
Kockott is absent this week as he is in South Africa for the wedding of his sister while the club are also missing Romain Teulet with a wrist injury. Grenoble meanwhile sit sixth in the standings and enter following victory over Bordeaux-Begles at this same venue.
Victory, with Montpellier tackling Clermont in the Auvergne, would move Grenoble fifth but they enter without key duo Valentin Courrent and Anthony Hegarty in what should be a tight game.
Mont-de-Marsan v Toulouse
Stade Guy Boniface
It was difficult not to feel sorry for Mont-de-Marsan last week after they fell by a solitary point at the hands of Biarritz. That negative must now be pushed to one side however as next up come Toulouse, who showed they are streetwise on the road after defeating Castres 18-16.
This could be seen as an ideal fixture for Toulouse before getting back into a Heineken Cup Pool campaign that was hit by defeat at the Ospreys.
Guy Noves' outfit face Treviso next week on French soil and have been boosted ahead of that game by the return of Luke McAlister. Openside flanker Thierry Dusautoir and wing Yves Donguy are both doubts.
Toulon v Racing-Metro
With their Heineken Cup Pool all but in the bag, undoubtedly the team of the European season thus far will meet Racing. Toulon demolished Perpignan last week by a scoreline of 46-13 and will be eager to build momentum at Felix Mayol before the visit of Cardiff Blues.
Bernard Laporte has recalled Fred Michalak, Nicolas Durand and Jean-Charles Orioli in what is a strong 24-man squad which includes Jonny Wilkinson, Matt Giteau and Steffon Armitage.
Racing enter confident against the leaders after hammering Agen last week.