PREVIEW: Toulon's Dominguez faces Clermont acid test

Fri, 23 Sep 2016 07:07
Large toulon players celebrate 800

TOP 14 WEEK SIX: Things don't get any easier for under-pressure Toulon coach Diego Dominguez as his side host in-form Top 14 leaders Clermont on the weekend.

Clermont come into the game on the back of two impressive victories, having dispatched Racing 92 (47-10) and latterly Bordeaux-Begles (40-16), and the league leaders sit on 18 points after five rounds, the only unbeaten side in the league.

Toulon lie eighth, however, the three-time former European champions having notched up wins in just two of their opening matches.

Shorn of a raft of senior players because of international duty and injury, Dominguez's side has looked distinctly average, compounded by a 30-41 defeat by Racing last weekend that was far more comprehensive than the scoreline suggests.

Dominguez, the Argentina-born former Italy flyhalf who became a figurehead for Stade Francais, this week received the dreaded vote of confidence from Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal.

"You need to stop fantasising about the sacking of Diego Dominguez," Boudjellal said of his coach who was always going to be facing an uphill struggle taking over from Bernard Laporte.

"Diego Dominguez is not a target today," he said, adding: "If we lose 0-95, that reopens the debate, but that's the case for every coach."

Clermont's last victory at Toulon's Stade Mayol dates back to a 17-0 win in 2011, and Jaunards coach Franck Azema insisted his team knew what to expect.

"We know where we're going," he said. "A disappointed public awaits...

"We're preparing accordingly, to go to Mayol with the intention of showing the same regularity and character that the squad has shown since the start of the season.

"We'll have the same demands on ourselves and we must, beyond the result, use these three big upcoming games [Toulon, Castres and Toulouse] to go into the European Champions Cup with a maximum level of certainty and confidence."

Azema added: "It's out of the question that we go into this match the least bit laid back.

"Toulon remain Toulon. They might have been slow getting going but I'm not worried for them. Once they're up and running, they'll be formidable."

Clermont will be without John Ulugia, as the Australian hooker has ruptured knee ligaments and expected to be out for three months.

Second-placed La Rochelle host newly-promoted Bayonne on Saturday, their 15,000-seater stadium sold out for a 10th consecutive match.

Third-placed Montpellier entertain Brive, who are a place below them in the table, on Sunday.

Defending champions Racing, in fifth, travel to Castres, in sixth, in Saturday's early game, while Bordeaux-Begles take on Lyon and Toulouse host Stade Francais.

Fixtures:

Saturday:

Castres v Racing 92, 
Grenoble v Pau
La Rochelle v Bayonne
Bordeaux-Begles v Lyon
Toulouse v Stade Francais 

Sunday:

Montpellier v Brive
Toulon v Clermont

Agence France-Presse