The Top 14 rolls on this weekend. Round 24 of 26 will be played in France and is to involve a host of players from the Americas. With there being no Friday matches in round 24 the games are to instead be five on Saturday and two on Sunday. There is a lot to play for with play-off’s, Champions Cup and relegation all factoring in.
Opening round 24 will be a repeat of the 2013 and 2014 Top 14 finals. Toulon is to have home advantage against Castres. The visitors have opted against fielding their strongest possible side. This sees captain Rodrigo Capó Ortega of Uruguay rested. The same is true of Pumas Horacio Agulla. Benjamín Urdapilleta will feature as a replacement. Toulon have named Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe on their bench.
Toulon are seemingly destined for a place in the play-off’s while Castres look likely to miss out. Speculation in France this past week has centered on the chances of Brive. The club won last weekend in Clermont and is now in 8th position. Castres, Pau and Racing 92 all have just one competition point more than Brive. Eagles flier Taku Ngwenya will play right wing for Brive.
Two No 8’s from the Americas will go head-to-head in Paris on Saturday. Sergio Parisse starts for Stade Français and Steffon Armitage is to do so for Pau. Also involved is to be Santiago Fernández. Argentina’s Rugby World Cup 2011 fly half is back from injury and will feature for Pau from the bench. It is to be his first match of the season. A Stade Français victory could see the club jumping from 10th to 5th position.
Back in August nobody predicted La Rochelle to be leading the Top 14 in April. So impressive have La Rochelle been that the club is holds a staggering 14 point advantage of the second placed Clermont. The club has qualified for the play-off’s, making history in the process. This weekend La Rochelle layaway to Lyon, another club doing well. For Lyon Trinidad & Tobago native Delon Armitage starts at fullback and Puma Francisco Gomez Kodela will play Tight Head prop. Facundo Isa is to feature from the bench.
Sunday’s two fixtures are to see Montpellier and Toulouse at home against Bayonne and Racing 92 respectively. Lineups for both matches are to be named later today. Pumas Patricio Albacete, Martín Bustos Moyano, Manuel Carizza and Juan Imhoff are expected to feature. Chileans Pablo Huete and Ramón Ayarza are also strong possibilities for Bayonne.