Perpignan to get up and running
Catalan giants Perpignan go into the fourth weekend of Top 14 action on Saturday still without a win and facing the tricky challenge against Bayonne.
Catalan giants Perpignan go into the fourth weekend of Top 14 action on Saturday still without a win and facing the tricky challenge of a home match against Bayonne to get their season up and running.
Despite three losses on the trot, Perpignan coach Marc Delpoux remained optimistic in his prognosis of his side's performances, saying that it needed some time before the new gameplan was well and truly bedded in.
"My feeling is that apart from the actual results, everything's going okay," said Delpoux, who took over at the 2009 champions after quitting rival Top 14 outfit Bordeaux-Begles at the end of last season.
"The players are putting in place what we want to do, they're extraordinary in training. We're progressing in what we want to do, but it takes time to put in place our gameplan."
Perpignan have so far lost to Toulon, Bordeaux-Begles and most recently Clermont, and face champions Toulouse in Barcelona on September 15.
"We have two big problems: our points in the standings, unfortunately not at the high level we were hoping for, and the mounting number of serious injuries over the last two weeks," Delpoux said.
The team has been hit by ruptured knee ligaments to Sofiane Guitoune and Jean-Pierre Perez, as well as a broken arm for tighthead prop Kisi Pulu and a torn groin muscle for the man he replaced, Nicolas Mas, the ever-dependable shoe-in for France in the number 3 shirt.
"Now we face Bayonne, a team which has taken a different route from the one it took last year (when it flirted with relegation)," he said.
"Bayonne are throwing it around a lot more, they're a lot calmer on the pitch, less panicky, because they suffered last year but then gave themselves a massive boost with a great win (24-11) over Stade Francais to kick off this season.
"We now have to convert our performances into points."
League leaders Biarritz host Montpellier in high spirits after opening their season with three successive victories including a morale-boosting 22-17 win over Toulouse last weekend.
And second-placed Toulon entertain Bordeaux-Begles, although with improvements to be made, according to mercurial France half-back Frederic Michalak.
Michalak's return home after a second stint in South Africa for the Sharks came for Toulon in last week's 29-15 win over Mont-de-Marsan that made it three wins from three games for his new side.
"The match was not exceptional from a team point of view," said the 56-time capped Michalak, who ended his two-year international exile when he played in both tests on the tour of Argentina in June.
"However, we will put that right. Each week we will try and improve. We are joint top of the table so that is good, especially for our confidence."
The club where Michalak made his name, Toulouse, host Agen, Castres travel to Stade Francais, and Grenoble host Mont-de-Marsan in Saturday's other matches.
The one fixture on Sunday sees third-placed Clermont welcome Racing Metro.
Saturday: Biarritz v Montpellier, Grenoble v Mont-de-Marsan, Stade Francais v Castres, Perpignan v Bayonne, Toulouse v Agen, Toulon v Bordeaux-Begles
Sunday: Clermont v Racing Metro