PREVIEW: Montpellier hoping not to fall in Racing test

Fri, 24 Nov 2017 10:40
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TOP14, WEEK 11: Montpellier face a test of their title credentials this weekend against 2016 champions Racing 92, according to wing Benjamin Fall.

The France international will be back playing at his old stomping ground to the west of Paris for the first time since leaving Racing for Montpellier in 2014 after four years playing in light blue and white.

"It will be a bit weird because I was lucky enough to play there," said the 28-year-old, who started his career at Bordeaux before moving to Bayonne and then Racing.

It will be one of the last matches to be played at the historic Yves du Manoir stadium - site of the 1924 Paris Olympics - before Racing move to their new home at the Nanterre Arena, in a neighbouring town also in the western suburbs of Paris.

That stadium will make its debut on Saturday when France take on Japan in their final autumn international.

A day later, though, Montpellier will have maintaining top spot on their minds, looking to defend a four-point lead over Lyon.

"Deep down, Racing 92 are similar to us in their system of play, the intensity they put into their rugby and also the type of players they have with a lot of talent," said Fall.

"It will be a great challenge against a team in full confidence following their win at Toulon.

"It's up to us to put the ingredients together to pull off an exploit over there,"

Racing moved up to fourth with their win at Toulon and this clash comes in a tough period for Montpellier on the back of matches against Clermont and Toulouse and with trips to third and second-placed La Rochelle and Lyon up next.

"Whereas up to know we'd played only teams sitting seventh to 14th, now we're up against those in the top seven," added Fall.

"We will find out where we are - big matches so we can gauge ourselves."

On Saturday, champions Clermont head to rock bottom Oyonnax aiming for their first away success of the season.

Oyonnax have won only once this season, a narrow 12-10 success over newly-promoted Agen in early September and captain Valentin Ursache says it's high time the team demonstrate they belong at this level.

"We're hosting the champions and I believe we have the ability to show that we deserve to be in the Top 14," he said.

Clermont are only ninth having won five and lost five this season but a victory would go some way to kick-starting their hopes of breaking into the top six playoff spots.

However, they remain ravaged by injury and on Wednesday signed former All Blacks fly-half Luke McAlister on loan from Toulon - although he's unlikely to play against Oyonnax.

Meanwhile, Lyon will look to bounce back from losing the Top 14 lead last weekend in a defeat at Clermont when they host Toulouse on Sunday.

Fixtures:

Saturday

Castres v Toulon
Agen v Stade Francais
Bordeaux-Begles v Brive
La Rochelle v Pau
Oyonnax v Clermont

Sunday

Racing 92 v Montpellier
Lyon v Toulouse

Agence France-Presse