Chasing pack out to make up ground on Castres
January 6, 2010
Can Toulouse halt Clermont's charge on Sunday? © Getty Images
After a round of upsets, the Top 14's big boys will be out to redress the balance this weekend. Surprise leaders Castres are out in front and the chasing pack has work to do in the New Year.
The action kicks off on Friday where Perpignan meet Racing Metro in our Game of the Week.
On Saturday, Stade Francais welcome fellow play-off hopefuls Biarritz to the Stade Jean Bouin. After a surprise loss to Montpellier and a dour 6-6 draw with Montauban in recent rounds, the colourful Parisians are rapidly running out of momentum. Biarritz, meanwhile, are living off their European form and have coasted to victory over Bourgoin and Montpellier in their past two domestic outings.
Leaders Castres travel to face Stade's conquerors Montpellier at the Stade Yves du Manoir on Saturday. Their hammering of Albi last weekend took them four points clear at the summit and they will need to produce the goods on the road once again. They travel without injured fly-half Cameron McIntyre.
Toulon were hammered by Clermont at the Stade Marcel Michelin in the previous round, where Jonny Wilkinson struggled from the kicking tee on a rare occasion. The visitors to the Stade Mayol this weekend are Montauban, who are struggling to pull clear of the relegation dogfight.
Bourgoin and Bayonne are also stuck in the mire, but both produced decent performances in the previous round. Bourgoin upset high-flying Racing to show all of their fight, while Bayonne came within inches of a surprise win over Toulouse at the Stade Jean Dauger. The relegation candidates have been left frustrated, though, after snow covered the pitch at the Stade Pierre Rajon and forced the postponement of the game.
Basement side Albi lost out to Castres last weekend and face a buoyant Brive at the Stade Municipal on Saturday. The away side were humbled by Clermont two games ago but bounced back in style to rout reigning champions Perpignan last weekend.
All the focus on Sunday is on the huge showdown between Toulouse and Clermont Auvergne at the Stade Ernest Wallon. Toulouse welcomed back Jean-Baptiste Elissalde and Byron Kelleher against Bayonne and they will need all of their main players to fire if they are to slow the charge of a Clermont side in ominous form.
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