50,000 crowd expected for Top 14 Paris derby
PARIS (AFP) –
Misfiring Paris pair Stade Francais and Racing-Metro will face off in the Stade de France in a Top-14 derby on Saturday with Racing chief Jacky Lorenzetti predicting a crowd of up to 50,000.
Both clubs have struggled so far this season with Stade currently lying eighth and Racing 10th and both badly need full points to keep alive their hopes of grabbing a playoffs berth at the end of the season.
Racing, who lost at home 17-16 to Mont-de-Marsan in their last outing, are desperate to bounce back amid a background of dressing-room unrest and personnel changes on the coaching front.
“It’s time to stop the talking, time to start being responsible – we need to win this match,” said international prop Luc Ducalcon.
“We have great respect for Stade Francais and we know that they have had a few good results recently, but we just can’t afford to not be at our best for what is the Paris derby.
“We need the points and I am sure we have the firepower to win.”
League leaders Toulon are also looking to get back to winning ways after dropping a 24-21 upset to Clermont in the last round of matches on November 10 before the international Test break.
They will not, however, be calling on the immediate services of fly-half Frederic Michalak, who starred in French wins over Australia, Argentina and Samoa, and who has been named on a four-player IRB shortlist for Player of the Year.
He will revert to the replacements bench where he has spent much of the season to date, with coach Bernard Laporte saying he needed time to recover from his efforts of the last few weeks.
Former France XV coach Laporte meanwhile has announced that he has extended his contract at Stade Mayol to 2015, having taken up the reins there in September 2011.
The match of the weekend could come at Clermont, the French champions in 2010, and Toulouse who have won the title for the last two years.
Clermont’s win over Toulon left them just two points adrift of the leaders, while Toulouse are a further two points back in third place.
Veteran Toulouse coach Guy Noves said that it was always tough at this time of year getting players who had been on international duty to refocus on the domestic game.
“You have got to re-motivate them and get them to understand that come Saturday it will be a battle,” he said. “Clermont are just as capable a side as Samoa, Australia or Argentina.”
“Our players are only human after all and after a spell like this there is always some easing off because their coaches have been asking so much off them.”
Noves also said that a thigh injury sustained by scrum-half Jean-Marc Doussain while playing for the French Barbarians against Japan on Sunday had turned out to be less serious than at first thought.
The weekend’s fixtures also see fourth-placed Montpellier hosting lowly Bayonne, while fifth-placed Castres travel to bottom dogs Mont-de-Marsan.
On Friday, Perpignan outplayed Agen, 39-13, to end a two-game losing run at the Stade Aime Giral.
Top 14 Fixtures
Toulouse v Clermont, Montpellier v Bayonne, Biarritz v Bordeaux, Toulon v Grenoble, Mont-de-Marsan v Castres, Racing-Metro v Stade Francais