Toulouse worried as Castres await
Toulouse worried as Castres awaitSHARE
Toulouse's veteran coach Guy Noves admits he is worried ahead of the visit of Top 14 champions Castres this weekend.
Toulouse, who sit fifth, one place below Castres but in a group of five teams level on 16 points, came under fire last week despite romping to a bonus point 31-7 victory over Biarritz.
What displeased their demanding fans was that having dominated the first period, and gone in at the break 26-0 ahead, they got bogged down in a tactical and turgid forwards battle after the restart, and actually 'lost' the second half 7-5.
Toulouse have been inconsistent this season, alternating between dominant home displays that reap attacking bonus points, and poor away showings that have left them with three defeats out of three, including a humbling 25-0 loss at Montpellier two weeks ago.
It is, therefore, an inopportune moment to be playing the French champions, fresh off the back of a 22-15 victory over European champions Toulon.
"It's THE test, the big match. Playing the champions who have just put in a performance in beating the European champions, and when you look at the team Toulon put out, we have reason to worry," said 59-year-old Noves, who has spent more than 20 years coaching Toulouse, having also spent 13 years at the club as a player.
In order to beat Castres, who just like their hosts have won all their home games and lost all three away, Noves says his team cannot afford to play like they did in the second period against Biarritz, although he said that match was now behind his team.
"We've deleted it, I don't want to talk about it," he said.
"[The crowd] took great pleasure during the first half. The crowd, which comes here (to the Stade Ernst-Wallon) and goes home with three victories and three attacking bonus points (for scoring at least three tries more than their opponents), has become harsh — and they're right."
According to Castres back-rower and vice-captain Yannick Caballero, this is a good time to be playing Toulouse, the record four-time European champions who have lost some of their aura of old.
"A few years ago Toulouse were untouchable but for the last two or three years we've beaten them at home and been close at their place (Castres only lost 23-22 there last season)," said Caballero.
"There's no need hiding it, now is the time to take them."
In Friday night's match, leaders Clermont travel to Montpellier, who are seventh but only three points off top.
The pair are two of only five teams to have won a single away match in a peculiar start to this season, in which eighth-placed Racing Metro have the same record of four wins and two defeats as Clermont, yet have taken three less bonus points.
Montpellier, beaten 28-16 at Perpignan last week, will welcome back captain and France flanker Fulgence Ouedraogo as several first choice players come back into the fold having been rested in Catalonia.
Clermont coach Vern Cotter, meanwhile, is hoping is team will play themselves into form ahead of next month's European Cup kick-off.
"We want to increase in power, right up until the start of the European Cup," he said.
"Against Grenoble (a 27-13 victory in which Clermont conceded a late try to miss out on an attacking bonus) we lacked aggression at the end of the match.
"We'll try to get that right for the next match."
In other games, Toulon host Bayonne, Racing are at home to Bordeaux-Begles and rock-bottom Biarritz entertain Grenoble.
Promoted Brive and Oyonnax host Perpignan and Stade Francais respectively.
Friday, September 20: Montpellier v Clermont (18.45 GMT)
Saturday, September 21 (16.30 GMT unless stated): Toulouse v Castres (13.00), Biarritz v Grenoble, Brive v Perpignan, Racing Metro v Bordeaux-Begles, Toulon v Bayonne, Oyonnax v Stade Francais (18.35)