Friday, October 23
Racing v Stade Francais
Saturday, October 24
Castres v Grenoble
Pau v Brive
Toulon v Oyonnax
Bordeaux v Toulouse
Montpellier v Clermont
Sunday, October 25
La Rochelle v Agen
Montpellier v Clermont – Saturday, 7.45pm
Saturday’s evening kick off sees the division’s top two come face-to-face as Clermont head to Montpellier looking to extend their four-point lead at the top of the table.
In what has been billed as the biggest game of the season so far, a capacity crowd is expected inside the Altrad Stadium. Clermont have been in indomitable form this year, responding to their 12-6 Top 14 Final defeat to Stade Francais with an unbeaten start to the 2015/16 campaign.
They set the tone with a 44-6 demolition of La Rochelle in round one and, aside from a 26-all draw with Bordeaux last month, they have taken maximum points from their games, racking up a massive 171 points in the process.
Montpellier have remained on their coattails, though, their only blemish being a 26-16 defeat at the hands of Pau, who were in inspired form on the Top 14’s return to Stade du Hameau after a nine-year absence.
The four-point gap between the two sides could be closed if Montpellier gets the win while an eight-point margin could open up of the game goes the way of the visitors. There is everything to play for.
RUCK PREDICTS: Both sides will go into the game with confidence after scoring 30 points in wins last week. Montpellier, with home advantage to call upon, will go into the game as favourites, but, with both sides in similar shape squad-wise, it’s too close to call. One not to be missed on Sky Sports 5 Red Button.
Odds: Montpellier 1/2; Draw 18/1; Clermont 8/5.
Racing v Stade Francais – Friday, 7.45pm.
Friday’s only fixture sees two of French rugby’s giants go head-to-head as floundering Stade Francais look to overhaul fourth-placed Racing at Stade Manoir.
A matter of months on from their title-winning campaign, the All Pinks have suffered a poor start to the year, losing three of their first five games and sitting tenth in the table. With a host of stars unavailable due to the World Cup, the reigning champions have been disappointing, but the green shoots of recovery were on show last week as they claimed a solid 22-9 home win against Castres.
In the hosts’ camp, a solid if an unspectacular year has unfolded with Dimitri Szarzewski and co. rumbling through four wins in five games. But bonus points have been scarce, meaning they sit six points adrift of top spot and will be hoping for an improved performance on last week’s 18-9 win at Oyonnax, or they could be in for only their second defeat of the season.
RUCK PREDICTS: With Stade Francais seemingly returning to form and Racing unimpressive so far this year, an away win could well be on the cards, but it’s certain to be a tight affair.
Stade Francais by 3
Odds: Racing 1/3; Draw 25/1; Stade Francais 16/5
Castres v Grenoble – Saturday, 1pm
This is a clash between two sides who are reeling from defeat last week while both teams are firmly in mid-table.
Castres were the victims of a resurgent Stade Francais performance last time out, coming away from their trip to the Jean-Bouin with nothing while Grenoble lost 19-30 at home to in-form Montpellier.
This will be a test of which side can bounce back the best and, with both teams taking in remarkably similar seasons so far, this could prove to be one of the weekend’s closest matches and will undoubtedly provide excitement, if not quite the exuberant quality of their table-topping rivals.
RUCK PREDICTS: This game could be decided on the flip of a coin but, with home advantage and the towering Richie Gray to call upon after his return from Scotland duty, Castres should have too much.
Castres by 2
Odds: Castres 5/19; Draw 25/1; Grenoble 62/17
Pau v Brive – Saturday, 1pm
Promoted Pau have enjoyed a steady start to life in the top tier of French rugby, winning two of their five games so far. For Brive, three wins from five has been a satisfactory outcome from the early stages of the season and, in fifth, they are firmly in the race for a top-four spot.
Despite their differing ambitions, a close game is in prospect tomorrow afternoon with Pau, who have maximum points from their two home games this season, looking to preserve their perfect home record. They will have their work cut out, though against a Brive side who have won their last two games and will be determined to pick up their first away win.
RUCK PREDICTS: Given the record of both teams, it is a surprise that Pau don’t go into the game as favourites with the bookies, but a victory for the visitors would be far from a shock.
Brive by 5.
Odds: Pau 3/1; Draw 18/1; Brive 9/4.
Toulon v Oyonnax – Saturday, 1pm
In what looks set to be a weekend of tough fixtures, this game at Stade Mayol sadly seems set to buck that trend.
Toulon, while not yet at their imperious best, have enjoyed a good start to the year and sit third on the Top 14 ladder with just one defeat to their name this year. Oyo meanwhile have suffered a tough start, picking up just one win, a 37-19 triumph against Bordeaux last month, this season.
Tomorrow’s visitors have since gone on to concede 94 points in the three subsequent games, a statistic that doesn’t bode well for Christophe Urios and his men as they prepare to face the division’s third top scorers.
RUCK PREDICTS: Though enduring a terrible set of results, Oyo have shown their fair share of attacking flair this year, scoring an average of 23 points per game. But, they would have to couple that with a steely defence to pull off a major shock and pick up their first away win of the season – they currently have the division’s second-worst defensive record.
Toulon by 30
Odds: Toulon 1/12; Draw 55/1; Oyonnax 11/1.
Bordeaux v Toulouse – Saturday, 1.30pm
Bordeaux, much like Toulon, are a side who are yet to start firing this year. With a record of two wins, one draw and two losses, the Chaban-Delmas faithful can be rightly frustrated with their side’s performances so far this season.
They won their first two games but went winless in three before beating Agen 31-16 away from home last weekend.
In opposition, Toulouse have had a remarkably similar record, picking up three wins and sitting alongside their hosts on 11 points, with Bordeaux picking up more bonus points. Both sides are riding on the back of confidence-boosting wins last time out, with Toulouse putting 39 points past La Rochelle to bounce back from their shock 6-9 defeat at Pau.
The Andre Moga stage is well set for a testing and tight encounter.
RUCK PREDICTS: With both sides scoring and conceding a similar amount of points, it could be one piece of magic which splits the two sides tomorrow. With the likes of Adam Ashley-Cooper unavailable, Bordeaux is without a number of their ‘magic’ men so Toulouse could steal the points.
Toulouse by 12
Odds: Bordeaux 1/2; Draw 18/1; Toulouse 8/5.
La Rochelle v Agen – Sunday, 11:30am
The final fixture of the weekend and Sunday’s only game brings together the Top 14’s bottom two sides.
Both outfits have endured the same record this year, losing their first two matches, before a confidence-boosting home win, then going on to suffer defeat in their latest two games. While the clash may be low on quality, a tight affair is in prospect as the two occupiers of the relegation places look to battle their way up the table.
Last time out, La Rochelle attacked well, but ultimately came away with nothing, falling to a 22-39 defeat at Toulouse, while Agen were equally potent going forward, but Bordeaux were eventual 31-16 winners at Stade Armandie.
RUCK PREDICTS: As the relegation contenders look to kickstart their fight for Top 14 survival, home advantage could be the only difference.
La Rochelle by 7
Odds: La Rochelle 5/1; Draw 20/1; Agen 10/3.