PREVIEW: Top 14 profits from France's dropped players

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 08:44
Large teddy thomas france v scotland 800

TOP14, ROUND 16: France's beleaguered rugby team will relish the chance to escape the spotlight this weekend as the Six Nations takes a break and the battle for Top 14 play-off berths resumes.

And after the nocturnal indiscretions of a number of French players in Edinburgh, there will be a few surprising faces gracing their club sides rather than remaining cocooned at France's Marcoussis training camp preparing for their next Six Nations match against italy.

Wing Teddy Thomas is available for Racing 92 despite his three tries for France this month as he was one of eight players sanctioned for "inappropriate behaviour" following reports of a night-club brawl.

The team's return to France on Monday was delayed as their plane was stopped on the runway and six players taken off by police for questioning as potential witnesses over allegations of a possible sexual assault.

Police Scotland determined "no crime has been committed" but France still saw fit to drop eight players -- out of a dozen that went out to a night club -- for the visit of Italy.

And then there is the somewhat suspicious injury suffered by one of the eight dropped players: lock Arthur Iturria, who needed stitches in a nose wound after falling in his hotel room.

That brought up memories of an incident involving centre Mathieu Bastareaud - now recalled to the France squad having initially been dropped after receiving a three-week ban for uttering a homophobic slur during a club match - in 2009 when France toured New Zealand.

Bastareaud went on a boozy night out only to suffer a facial injury after returning to his hotel in the early hours of the morning.

He initially claimed he'd been assaulted while he was out, only to own up to the truth after CCTV footage proved he'd been lying.

He was sent home from the tour - but now he's the beneficiary of a sanction against other players for an alcohol-fuelled indiscretion.

Another France player, fullback Geoffrey Palis - also suffered a facial injury on Sunday night reportedly from an incident in his hotel room but he hasn't been dropped by France.

The dropped players should boost their club sides this weekend and that could be good news for leaders Montpellier, with bullocking No.8 Louis Picamoles available for their trip to rock bottom Oyonnax.

Picamoles had a stormer in his last club match when Montpellier won away to champions Clermont, although he's otherwise had a poor season.

He was dropped from the squad by France coach Jacques Brunel because of his club form only to receive a recall after his Clermont performance and an injury to Kevin Goudron, who started for France against Ireland.

However, Picamoles has been dropped again as he was one of the infamous eight sanctioned over their late-night antics in Edinburgh.

Montpellier have a lot to gain this weekend with their two nearest challengers, Racing and La Rochelle going head-to-head in Paris.

Racing could be boosted by the return of Thomas, on fire in his two France appearances this month, for that crucial clash.

Things have been falling into place for Racing in recent weeks with New Zealand great Dan Carter back from injury and a run of eight wins in their last nine league matches since a 16-9 reverse away to high-flying La Rochelle in October.

That upturn in form has propelled a team previously languishing in the bottom half to a point off top.

Champions Clermont are 11 points off a play-off spot and down in 10th and face a must-win trip to Lyon without scrum-half Morgan Parra, ruled out for four to six weeks for an operation on his meniscus.

Fixtures: (all times GMT)

Saturday, February 17

Agen v Toulouse (17.00)
Brive v Pau  (17.00)
Lyon v Clermont (19.45)
Oyonnax v Montpellier (17.00)
Toulon v Stade Francais (13.45)

Sunday, February 18

Bordeaux-Begles v Castres (11.30)
Racing 92 v La Rochelle (15.50)

Agence France-Presse