PREVIEW: Toulon welcome shuffling Stade

Fri, 11 Nov 2016 12:17
Large stde francais celebrate 800

TOP 14 WEEK ELEVEN: Mike Ford's Toulon will bid to get their rollercoaster Top 14 season back on track when they host a depleted Stade Francais on Sunday.

The three-time European champions slumped to a shock 13-27 defeat by newly-promoted Lyon last week and stand fourth in the table having won just five of their 10 games.

The club's wavering form has been enough for owner Mourad Boudjellal to declare he might leave at the end of the season.

But beleaguered Stade Francais coach Gonzalo Quesada has already used 45 players in his team's 10 outings as he struggles to manage enforced player rotations with injuries and international call-ups.

Italy skipper Sergio Parisse has played only five times for the Paris club this season.

"Sergio told me he didn't have the impression of having really started the season with us," lamented Quesada.

It is a similar story for scrumhalf Will Genia, who has played twice for Stade as he turned out for Australia in the Rugby Championship and is now at the November internationals.

And they are not alone among senior players. South African Willem Alberts has played just four games, Djibril Camara three, Jonathan Danty one, Alexandre Flanquart two, Raphael Lafakia four and Morne Steyn one.

Luckily for Stade, flyhalf Jules Plisson was released by France, not needed for Guy Noves' team to play against Samoa on Saturday.

But while Plisson goes straight into the starting XV, Quesada has been forced to call up a string of juniors.

"Even throwing in some youngsters, we still can't have a XV-on-XV opposition training," Quesada said in comments published by L'Equipe.

The Argentinian coach said his assistants Gerg Cooper and Omar Mouneimne were exasperated.

"They haven't been able to work on attack or defence," he said.

"But at the end of the day, we take all that as a challenge. If we focus on the negative, it becomes unliveable. Now we're delighted to shuffle our squad."

Top 14 leaders Clermont will be missing five players on France duty when they travel to bottom club Bayonne on Saturday.

With a sole win to their credit this season, over Toulon in their opening match, the Basques are desperate to break a nine-game losing streak.

Second-placed La Rochelle host Toulouse in Sunday's early match, with third-placed Montpellier welcoming back South African flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis from concussion in time to entertain Lyon. Like Quesada, Montpellier's Jake White is forced into shuffling his squad, with 14 absentees.

In other matches, Racing 92 travel to Pau, Castres face Brive and Grenoble come up against Bordeaux-Begles.

Fixtures:

Saturday:

Pau v Racing 92
Castres v Brive
Montpellier v Lyon
Grenoble v Bordeaux-Begles
Bayonne v Clermont

Sunday:

La Rochelle v Toulouse
Toulon v Stade Francais

Agence France-Presse