Title rivals go head-to-head
April 2, 2010
Perpignan will look to build on last week's big win over Stade by extending their lead on top © Getty Images
Locked together on 71 points, champions Perpignan and second-placed Castres will be looking to get a definitive advantage on top of the Top 14 table on Saturday night.
Two points seperated the sides when they met in October, with the Catalans emerging on top and they'll be hoping to repeat that trick. That game saw just one try scored by hooker Guilhem Guirado and it's likely to be just as tight at Stade Pierre-Antoine where Castres have been unbeaten this season.
That home record has been the basis of their impressive league form and with Perpignan having lost eight of their matches on the road so far the hosts will go in with confidence. Home wins over Biarritz and Stade have bolstered Perpignan, who leapfrogged Castres on points difference, and they'll appreciate the importance of coming away with something tangible, especially with Clermont ready to pounce just a point back in third.
They put seven tries on the Parisians last week and will be hoping to continue that try scoring form as the ground hardens. But Castres are conceding an average of just 13 points per game and that mean defence has been the cornerstone of their impressive record while they've been scoring an average of 22. A 26-10 win over Bayonne last week got them back to winning ways after they slipped up at Toulon.
In Romain Teulet they possess the league's most potent points getter, while former All Black Chris Masoe is the top try-scorer after crossing for seven tries and they'll be looking to keep to the top of the scoring charts. After their rout last week, Perpignan will be hoping to increase their stats but all signs point to a tight affair between two hard working sides.
Castres: R Teulet; M Nicolas, R Cabannes, Y Audrin, M Andreu; C McIntyre, A Albouy; C Hoeft, M Bonello, D Saayman, M Rolland, K Koulemine, I Diarra, M Masoe, J Tekori
Replacements: A Rallier, L Ducalcon, R Capo Ortega, Y Caballero, T Sanchou, F Denos, P Garcia, Y Forestier
Perpignan: J Porical; A Plante, D Marty, M Mermoz, J Candelon; G Hume, N Durand; J Schuster, V Tincu, N Mas, G Vilaceca, R Tchale-Watchou, JP Perez, O Tonita, H Tuilagi
Replacements: G Guirado, K Pulu, G Britz, D Chouly, D Mele, F Sid, J Michel, P Freshwater
As Ray McLoughlin prepares to celebrate his 75th birthday, Huw Richards pays tribute to the man and the selectors who had the wisdom to bring him into the Ireland fold
John Taylor argues the world's best XVs players must be given a chance to play in the Olympics to increase the appeal of the game
The All Blacks' form is not a peaking issue, but Hansen must threaten to wield his axe, to demand improvement, Craig Dowd writes
"It has been the World Cup that smashed down the gender barriers of the sport." Tom Hamilton looks back at a remarkable tournament