Top 14 - Round 13 Preview
Perpignan out to cement top spot
November 18, 2009
Jerome Porical has been in fine form for Perpignan © Getty Images
Reigning French Top 14 champions Perpignan have a golden opportunity to extend their lead at the top of the table this weekend, with a trip to face bottom side Albi on Friday and their nearest rivals all set for tough work-outs.
Perpignan will be without flanker Jean-Pierre Perez, who is struggling with a groin injury, while Guilhelm Guirado, David Marty and Nicolas Mas are on French duty. They are joined by Henry Tuilagi, who is in the Samoa camp.
Second-place Toulouse travel to face the league's surprise package, Castres, at the Stade Pierre Antoine on Saturday.
Toulouse are the form side ahead of the game after finally cutting loose with a 43-9 dismantling of Bourgoin in their last outing. Castres, meanwhile, proved difficult to put away and emerged from their home game with Clermont Auvergne with a share of the points following a 9-9 draw.
At the Stade Marcel Michelin, Clermont will need to be wary of a Biarritz side smarting after recent losses spoiled a positive start to the season. The Basque side have a game in hand on those above them however and will be out to banish memories of their 14-9 away loss to Montauban.
Experienced campaigners Dimitri Yachvili, Jerome Thion and Iain Balshaw are all on duty for the game and will need all of their nous to help Biarritz to victory.
In Paris there is a mouth-watering derby as new-boys Racing Metro host the glitzy Stade Francais. The home side will be able to call on Springbok Francois Steyn for the game but not lock Sebastien Chabal, who has been named in the French engine-room for their Test against Samoa.
Stade too are without a clutch of star names, as Sergio Parisse, Julien Dupuy, James Haskell, Hugo Southwell, Pascal Pape and Dimitri Szarzewski are all absent due to the international break.
Sebastien Fauque will likely retain the playmaking duties for Toulon against Brive at the Stade Mayol, although Pumas star Felipe Contepomi is nearing a return to fitness. Brive will have Andy Goode at their disposal following his release from the England squad.
Montpellier are without fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc for their showdown against Bourgoin and there will be mixed feelings as Bayonne take on Montauban as their prolific wing Benjamin Fall will make his French debut at the Stade de France.
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