Already the 9th day but yet it all starts in the Top 14 with the return of the world stars and two posters: Toulouse-Clermont and Stade Français-Racing, four clubs that want to turn everything in a championship today dominated by Lyon and Bordeaux.
All the internationals have not yet returned, including four of the South African world champions - only the Toulouse driver Thomas du Toit will be attacked - but the Top 14 is full of questions. Lyon and Bordeaux will they continue their rides in mind? Toulouse back to the top? The Parisians get out of the abyss? Bayonne confirm its excellent start to the season?
The actors say it themselves, as the coach of Racing 92 Laurent Travers, "it's another championship" that begins, and that "for everyone".
The waves of internationals have strengthened most clubs, which attack after three weeks without playing a pivotal period, with the big teams the start of the European Cup next week.
Some, like Racing, have really changed their faces in recent weeks by recovering ten players, including the French Camille Chat, Virimi Vakatawa, Maxime Machenaud, Wenceslas Lauret, Bernard Le Roux and Cedate Gomes Sa. The Hauts-de-Seine club (13th, 13 points) hopes to win the derby and sink the Stade Français (14th, 9 pts), who could use Gaël Fickou and Paul Gabrillagues, Sunday at the stadium Jean Bouin (16h50).
- Perfume of finale -
Before that, Saturday in prime time (8:45 pm), the calendar offers a classic Toulouse-Clermont, the poster of the last final won by the Stade last June. If the ASM (4th, 20 pts) has done rather well without its internationals, this is not the case of the defending champion (11th, 14 pts).
At the Stadium, Toulouse will not be able to line up world champion winger Cheslin Kolbe, who is celebrating his title to the country, but relies on the pleiad of French holders (Maxime Médard, Romain Ntamack, Yoann Huget, Sofiane Guitoune) in addition to Thomas Ramos, who had left the Blues during the World Cup. Cyril Baille is his replacement, while Antoine Dupont is absent because of recurrent back pain.
Clermont, who remains on a victory against the leader of Lyon, must line Alivereti Raka entry to the wing and Camille Lopez at the opening, while Damian Penaud, injured on the lip Thursday, is finally forfeit. Sébastien Vahaamahina is serving a six-week suspension for his elbow against Wales in Japan.
- LOU and UBB: stay up there -
Before his defeat at Clermont (24-15) on October 20, the LOU (1st, 30 pts) had chained seven victories in a row and will want to find this pace against La Rochelle (6th, 18 pts) on Sunday (12:30), for the last match of Mathieu Bastareaud before his departure in New York.
Faced with a complete team, better offense (242 pts) and better defense (105), the mission seems complicated for the Maritimes, who suffered four defeats during their four trips.
Behind Lyon, Bordeaux-Bègles (2nd, 26 pts) receives Agen (10th, 16 pts) Saturday (18:00) for him too to find success after a heavy defeat in Brive (30-9). A setback that does not detract from the course, under the leadership of UBB's Christophe Urios, who is finally dreaming of participating in a final phase.
- Guirado, retired and young first -
Just retired internationally, Guilhem Guirado said he was "ready" to make his debut under his new colors Montpellier to "revive the machine". The former captain of the XV of France, holder, will not be lost, however, since Montpellier (7th, 17 pts) goes to Toulon (5th, 18 pts), where he played these last five seasons, for the opening of this day saturday at 15h30.
Champion of France in 2018, Castres (12th, 14 pts) is also not where he hopes to be and has the opportunity to recover from Saturday (18:00) at home against Brive (9th, 17 pts) who travels badly (four defeats on four moves).
Finally, the promoted Bayonne (3rd, 21 pts) wants to confirm the beautiful surprise of these first eight days after five successes, including two away (Racing, Agen). But at the time of welcoming Pau (8th, 17 pts) Saturday (18:00), the Rowing knows it: the hunt is now launched.
© 2019 AFP