PREVIEW: Racing face Toulon in finals clash re-run
TOP 14 WEEK FIVE: Racing 92 entertain arch-rivals Toulon on Sunday in a re-run of last season's Top 14 final clash of the titans, which was won by the Parisian club.
Racing ran out 29-21 victors in Barcelona in June, but were hammered last week by second-placed Clermont, 10-47.
"We're not at all happy with how we played at Clermont," admitted Racing coach Laurent Travers.
"We've had a tough start to the season."
That tough start will continue with the arrival of Toulon at the Stade Yves-du-Manoir in northwestern Paris.
Toulon recorded a bonus-point 32-15 win over Toulouse last week, a result that could have saved under-fire manager Diego Dominguez his job.
Outspoken Toulon President Mourad Boudjellal played down speculation about Dominguez's future, while praising his players.
"The week has been very hard and lots of false things have surfaced in the media," Boudjellal said.
"I never said I was going to fire Diego Dominguez. I simply wanted the players to give their all for the jerseys they're wearing.
"I never had the intention of going our separate ways."
Boudjellal added: "But I was worried, I can tell you.
"It's the first time that I was looking down and not up. But one thing's for sure: the squad is ready to fight. And to fight notably for Diego, and that's very positive."
Unlikely league leaders La Rochelle are away at Brive, who were involved in an ugly, all-in punch-up in their 22-36 defeat by Grenoble last week.
Three players were shown red cards after and seven summoned before the disciplinary committee of the body running professional rugby in France, the LNR, with an eighth, Brive's Mathieu Ugalde, also asked to answer charges of eye-gouging.
La Rochelle saw off Top 14 newcomers Lyon 43-18 last week, Jules Le Bail coming on early for injured Australian playmaker Zack Holmes to run the show with aplomb. He is likely to be handed a starting spot at Brive on Saturday.
Holmes faces a month on the sidelines, the former Western Force back having suffered multiple small fractures to his cheekbone, according to coach Patrice Collazo.
Clermont host Bordeaux-Begles, with the latter's coach Raphael Ibanez left purring at New Zealand Maori flank Luke Braid's contribution in their 40-20 win over Bayonne.
"He's the engine of our team," said the former France hooker and captain.
Turning to the trip to Clermont, Ibanez said of the team they will play four times this season: "It's the first round, one of observation.
"Clermont are a little more advanced than us when it comes to its squad, the way it can be interchanged, multiple combinations at its heart with a way of playing that takes them towards total rugby, spectacular.
"You can't hide from it, they remain a massive Top 14 team and that must add to our motivation."
Third-placed Stade Francais are away to Pau, while fifth-place Montpellier travel to Bayonne. Lyon entertain Toulouse.
Lyon v Toulouse
Brive v La Rochelle
Pau v Stade Francais
Bayonne v Montpellier
Clermont v Bordeaux-Begles
Castres v Grenoble
Racing 92 v Toulon