battle for the first six places, what are the dynamics of the contenders?

If the qualification of Montpellier seems recorded, eight clubs are in the fight to win the other five tickets for the final stages of the Top 14. State of the forces present.

Four days before the end of the regular season, the battle is raging to clinch its place in the final phase. The fight promises to be fierce to climb into the top six of the Top 14, qualifying for the finals. The leader Montpellier, with ten points ahead of La Rochelle third, is on track to finish in the first two and therefore go directly to the semi-finals. Behind, it is much more undecided.

Bordeaux-Bègles: 2nd – 63 points

A worrying negative spiral. At the end of January, Union Bordeaux-Bègles flew over the Top 14: on the evening of the 16th day, the Girondin club had even counted up to 10 points ahead of the MHR of Philippe Saint-André. Since then, the machine has suddenly come to a halt with a black series of eight defeats in the last nine matches, including three losses in a row against Stade Rochelais (Champions Cup included). Will Christophe Urios’ troupe stop the bleeding and straighten their heads? “We could easily be sheltered and be able to manage our guys easily, but we didn’t choose that. We chose a more difficult path but suddenly there are no questions to ask, there are four matches, there are four finals., announces the Bordeaux technician. First element of response, this Saturday, at the leader Montpellier. Complicated. And the rest will also be well noted…

Schedule : goes to Montpellier, receives Toulon, receives Lyon, goes to Perpignan

La Rochelle: 3rd – 58 points

The triple confrontation won against the UBB galvanized the Rochelais. “We are in a good dynamic but the matches against Bordeaux are the past. It’s not interesting, it’s over, over”, says La Rochelle manager Ronan O’Gara. Several executives (Alldritt, Danty, Atonio, Priso) are left to rest this weekend against Usap, for the final sprint. Apart from the setback conceded in Toulon in mid-March, Stade Rochelais remains on five successes in six league outings. The finalist of the last Top 14 is gaining momentum. “We are confident, there is a lot of emulation in the group. (…) We are entering the money time, the competitors like it“appreciates O’Gara. The Maritimes will have to manage two trips to direct competitors, Toulouse and Lyon. Developer.

Schedule : receives Perpignan, goes to Toulouse, receives Stade Français, goes to Lyon

Castres: 4th – 58 points

Quietly, like every year, the Tarnais are still there for the final sprint. Castres Olympique, after 22 days, remains the only elite team not to have lost at home (a draw conceded). The “painful” team cliché to play is tenacious, but it ultimately sticks well to the reality of the CO. “I know, and I often hear it, that many enthusiasts, and in many territories, appreciate our collective values ​​and our model, which is different from that of large cities”underlined Castres President Pierre-Yves Revol in the columns of The Noon Dispatch. After the reception of ASM this weekend (which has won only three times at Castres in 45 years), Pierre-Henry Broncan’s players will have a favorable schedule against three opponents out of the race in the final sprint. “We have to surpass ourselves all the time, that we give our maximum. This is what we expect from our players on Saturday, that they are transcended by the event! It’s a great opportunity for the club, for our players and for our city to always be within six or four games of the end.», Underlines the Tarn coach. And why not finish in the top two?

Schedule : receives Clermont, goes to Biarritz, receives Perpignan, goes to Pau

Thomas Combezou, the three-quarter center of Castres. Panoramic

Toulouse: 5th – 57 points

After a serious air pocket in the heart of winter, the French champion is doing better. Qualification for the Champions Cup against Ulster showed that Stade Toulousain is back at the forefront. But the balance is fragile: for Saturday’s trip to the Stade Vélodrome to challenge RC Toulon, many executives will be left to rest to better prepare for the future. Which promises to be, again, strong with the reception in the wake of the Stade Rochelais. The Red and Black cannot afford to leave too many points on the way. “Last week’s victory did a lot of good for the group and showed its strength of character”, underlines the international center Sofiane Guitoune. And to insist: “We have young players who are ready to replace these absent players, it’s a very good opportunity for them.” No time to waste. Still present on both counts, Toulouse is just in time.

Schedule : Goes to Toulon, receives La Rochelle, goes to Brive, receives Biarritz

Racing 92: 6th – 56 points

Laurent Travers, the manager of Racing 92, repeats it: “We have four games left. To be in the six, we will have to win three. If the reception on Saturday of Biarritz Olympique, the red lantern, should not pose a problem, the two trips that will follow, to Pau and Montpellier, will be more demanding. It will be necessary to win one of the two, before receiving RC Toulon. After two losses in a row in the Top 14 (in Perpignan then La Rochelle), the Ile-de-France residents were able to re-engage the forward march by having three times against Stade Français Paris. In the last victory over the Soldats Roses, however, Wenceslas Lauret and his teammates were not as dominant as in the first two matches. “We couldn’t put our game in place, especially since they were ahead in terms of the score. We were not sufficiently awake, involved, which caused us to be late and to run after the score”, had missed the Sky and White flanker. An ignition delay that will have to be avoided when approaching the final sprint. So as not to miss the final stages, which has never happened to Racing 92 since its return to the top flight in 2009-2010.

Schedule : receives Biarritz, goes to Pau, goes to Montpellier, receives Toulon

Lyon: 7th – 54 points

If the LOU managed to qualify for the quarters of the Challenge Cup against Worcester, the table is less brilliant in the Top 14 with three losses in its last four matches. Ejected from the top 6, the Rhone club will have to work hard because it has the toughest schedule of contenders for the finals. What a heavy prospect. After the slap received against Toulon, which he will join next season, manager Pierre Mignoni had harshly vituperated in Progress : “Everyone will have to take responsibility until the end of the season, both in terms of players and management. We’re going to do things my way from A to Z. I don’t want to end this season in Lyon with regrets. Now, I’m starting to have some.” The LOU, which had reached the semi-finals in 2018 and 2019, cannot afford to miss the final stages again like last year. You’re going to have to seriously hang on.

Schedule : goes to Brive, receives Montpellier, goes to UBB, receives La Rochelle

Baptiste Serin (Toulon) and Baptiste Couilloud (Lyon). Panoramic

Clermont: 8th – 53 points

On a downward slope for several seasons, the ASM is experiencing another chaotic season. The Auvergnats are indeed in a bad position to integrate the top 6 before moving to Castres, impregnable this season at home. “It’s good to eliminate all the excuses, and to have to focus and take responsibility, in order to be in place on Saturday, against an opponent who represents a real challenge! We have only one objective: to play our best game of the season away from home, with the desire to achieve a performance“, manager Jono Gibbes explained to Rugbyrama. A setback in the Tarn could clearly be prohibitive for Auvergnats deprived of many players in their three-quarter line, in particular the central three-quarter George Moala, regularly decisive. In full restructuring, the ASM could see its season end on Saturday at Pierre-Fabre. It remains to be seen whether the dry elimination in the Champions Cup against the English of Leicester has been digested. Not easy.

Schedule : goes to Castres, receives the Stade Français, goes to Biarritz, receives Montpellier

Toulon: 9th – 51 points

For a long time, imagining the RCT in the final phase of the Top 14 seemed like a pipe dream. But, after a necessary time of adaptation to the methods of Franck Azéma, the Var club found colors and going. Signing, since mid-December, six victories in the last eight days of the championship. Now with the keen hope of grabbing a place in the right car at the last minute. This will go through a first success against a redesigned Toulouse at the Stade Vélodrome. “There is no additional pressuresays Azéma. It’s good pressure, it’s stimulating. Being able to express yourself four days from the end on a match like that, you can’t dream of better, it’s interesting. It is not something suffered.“The last three days will obviously be crucial, especially with two high-risk trips to Bordeaux and Racing 92. But the Toulon manager believes in it: “We are in a positive dynamic and, suddenly, there are fewer questions. There is this recklessness and there is not this fear of losing.“The RCT has, in any case, not the right to the slightest misstep.

Schedule : receives Toulouse, goes to UBB, receives Pau, goes to Racing 92

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