Paris - One of the most humiliating weeks in the history of
French rugby ends with a sliver of salvation as leaders Clermont head to last
season's beaten finalists Montpellier to kick-start round 11 of the Top 14 on
It is a golden chance for the cream of the French game to
show that last weekend's horror show at the Stade de France when Les Bleus
stumbled to defeat against Fiji was a mere aberration.
Three members of the French squad - Louis Picamoles,
Benjamin Fall and Kelian Galletier - are likely to feature in Vern Cotter's
Montpellier side alongside their two returning Georgians, Misha Nariashvili and
They will have to wait until next season for French captain
Guilhem Guirado who confirmed his move from Toulon earlier on Thursday but they
may have the bonus of Johan Goosen coming back after six weeks out with an
Goosen - who retired from the sport in 2016 before joining
the Top 14 runners up this summer - was carried off the field on a stretcher in
October's victory over Toulon.
But the 13-time Springbok has made a good recovery and could
Montpellier, who are currently ninth just four points behind
fourth-placed La Rochelle, face a Clermont who put four tries past Lyon in a
31-11 win last week without their internationals.
The potential return of Camille Lopez, Rabah Slimani,
Sebastien Vahaamahina and Arthur Iturria will only make them stronger.
While it is a game to mend some reputations it is also a
chance for others to build theirs, none more so than Clermont's Fijian-born
wing Alveriti Raka who will receive his French citizenship on December 8,
making him eligible for Jacques Brunel's side in the Six Nations.
Another player creeping on to Brunel's radar is 20-year-old
Stade Francais flanker Ryan Chapuis who will get a further chance to impress in
Sunday's feature match against second-placed Toulouse.
Chapuis has taken advantage of the injuries and absences
this season to make a toehold in the Paris-based team. He has played a part in
all 12 competitive games that Stade have played, starting nine, and has made a
"People didn't really believe in him," former
France captain Pascal Pape who coached him at the Stade academy told sports
"He isn't enormous physically and he is not the
strongest. But he is the smartest. You have to be smart to succeed in today's
rugby. You don't need to be able to lift four hundred pounds to progress, it is
also in the head."
The other Parisian team Racing 92, third in the table seven
points behind Clermont, also face an awkward weekend when they travel to La
Rochelle who are one place and one point behind them - and unbeaten since the
end of September.
That game is an indication of the congestion in the top half
of the table - only four points separate third-placed Racing from Montpellier
The bottom end of the table is a little clearer as Perpignan
go into round 11 with just four points and a record of: Won 0, Drawn 0, Lost
And now there is talk of Irish flyhalf Paddy Jackson
leaving the club. According to reports in the French media, the former Ulster
playmaker has been spotted talking to Lyon about the possibility of jumping
ship should Perpignan go down.
The Catalans, who were promoted in May as second division
champions, are at home to Bordeaux-Begles who are seventh and keen to stay in
the hunt for the play-offs.
Once mighty Toulon have stumbled on hard times of late. With
just three wins to their name they are twelfth but a win over Grenoble on
Saturday would lift them above their opponents.