Bet: Carcassonne +7.5
Third day of Pro D2.
As I said on the first day, Aurillac is for me the weakest team in this Pro D2. The Cantalians have lost many important players this summer and have recruited very few new players. Aurillac beat Oyonnax (20-19) in the first day before losing heavily in Provence Rugby (48-18). Aurillac has many missing players. Nouhaillaguet, Van der Walt, Amrouni, Fabro, Ostberg, Merab Sharikadze, Tsustskiridze, Pierre Gaveau, Albert Valentin, Yann Lohoré were injured. So Nel and Salles will play for the first time on the wing..
Carcassonne is making a good start to the season. They took a defensive bonus at Montauban and won it in front of Angoulême last week. Carcassonne has a more than solid team, capable of playing the first half of the draw. Compared to last week, Wihongi and Coste are rested. The team is solid with Valentine in scrumhalf who is one of the best 9 of the championship. Mac Mahon is excellent in this early season while Jasmin is a formidable try hunter. Big bench with Fournier, Zito, Meité, Bosch, Marrou, …
It’s hard to say who’s gonna win this game. I see Carcassonne stronger on the paper. So I take them with the handicap.
Bet: Cardiff +2.5
First day of Pro 14.
Cardiff won the Challenge Cup last season beating Gloucester in the final. Last season Cardiff finished 4th in his group behind Glasgow, Munster and Cheetahs but ahead of Ospreys and Connacht. This summer, the Blues have strengthened their squad. They lost Cuthbert (Exeter) and Warberton (retired) but they took the Arhip prop, the number 8 Samu Manoa and the 3/4 Jason Harries. Samu Manoa, Gareth Anscombe, Josh Navidi, Matthew Rees and Gethin Jenkins are absent. But, the starting XV remains very competitive.
Leinster won the Pro 14 by beating the Scarlets in the final. This summer they lost Strauss, Nacewa and Heaslip who retired. Joey Carbery signed at Munster while Jordi Murphy joined Ulster. Only Joe Tomane arrived in Leinster this summer. For this game, the Leinster has many absentees. Josh van der Flier, Sean O’Brien, Ciaran Frawley, Will Connors, Garry Ringrose, Dan Leavy are injured. Sexton, Healy, Cronin, Furlong, Toner, Larmour, Lowe, Henshaw, Ryan are out. The start XV is very light, especially in front. At the back, there are players like Kearney or Byrne who can make the difference.
This game is 50/50 but I give a slight advantage to Cardiff.
Bet: Castres +11.5
The closing match of this first day of TOP 14 offers us a clash between the last two finalists of TOP 14. Montpellier host the champion, Castres, this Sunday at 17:05 at Altrad Stadium.
Winner of the regular season, last season, Montpellier lost in the final against Castres Olympique (13-29). Christophe Urios’s men were able to beat the Heraultans, who made too many mistakes to hope to win. Pienaar was defective at the foot and the MRH’s conquest was shaky.
Vern Cotter did not change its squad this summer. Turnover players like Moff, Michel, Tomane, Delannoy, Kubriashvili have left.
The main arrival is Johan Goosen, former Racing fullback. Internationals Julien Ledevedec and Levan Chilachava also signed.
Montpellier made a big physical preparation with the aim of reaching its peak of form at the time of approaching the Champions Cup. Many key players are injured like Camara, Dumoulin, J. du Plessis, Fall, Galletier, Nadolo, Nariashvili, Ouedraogo, Paillaugue, Picamoles and Serfontein. The captain will be Wiaan Liebenberg who was on loan to Béziers last year. The starting XV is rather solid but the back row and the bench seem rather light.
Castres created a surprise last season by winning the title of French champion. However, the Tarnais had snatched sixth place in the regular season. Before winning the final, the Castrais had already created a surprise by winning in Toulouse and defeating Racing 92 !
Castres didn’t lose any key players this summer. On the contrary, the CO has boosted his staff by taking players like Yann David, Martin Laveau, Scott Speeding, Camille Gérondeau or Kevin Gimeno.
Several players are absent like Jenneker, Jacquet, Caballero Babillot, Jelonch, Kockott, Smith, Batlle, … Nevertheless, the team remains very competitive with many potential starters. In front, it’s solid. At the back, the pair of center is complementary. The bench is of good quality. There’s just the prop Clerc that scares me a little.
Montpellier has a lot of regulars out. The team seems a little light in some positions. Players may lack energy with the difficult physical preparation. Castres is a great team. They want to do a job. I find that handicap a little too high. Right handicap : +8.5
Bet: Grenoble +15.5
First day of TOP 14.
Last season, La Rochelle failed again in their attempt to reach the finals of the Top 14 by finishing in 7th place. This summer, they lost their emblematic coach Patrick Collazo. Captain Jason Eaton retired while Brock James and Afa Amosa joined Bordeaux. In the arrivals section, they signed Ihai West and Lopeti Timani. Arthur Joly (Agen), Marc Andreu (Racing 92) and Sila Puafisi (Brive) have also joined the club with many Pro D2 players (Maloir, Bourdeau, Lafage, Plessis-Couillaud).
For this first game, the coaches decided to place Jeremy Sinzelle at the opening, which had not really worked last season. Plessis-Couillaud and Bourdeau begin. The bench looks very light with many youngsters. Many players are absent like Atonio, Forbes, Qovu, Botia, Jordaan, Murimurivalu, West, Kerr Barlow, Lacroix, Gourdon, Doumayrou, …
After losing in the accession final against Perpignan, Grenoble won the play-off against Oyonnax to qualify for the TOP 14. The FCG has retained all its key players and has strengthened very well. The major recruits are Davit Kubriashvili (Montpellier), Halani Aulika (Sale), Jakobus Christo JANSE VAN RENSBURG (Stormers), Clément Ancely (Massy), Mike Tadjer (Brive), Taleta Tupuola (Montauban), Steeve Blanc-Mappaz (Vannes), Gaëtan Germain (Brive), Junior Rasoela (Edinburgh), Ben Lucas (Reds). But Grenoble’s recruitment star is, without a doubt, South African international Raymond Rhule. This winger was U20 World Champion and has 7 appearances with the Springboks. The FCG has some absent like Gaëtan Germain, Adrien Latorre, Junior Rasolea, Fabien Alexandre and Steeve Blanc-Mappaz. But, the starting XV is solid. The front row scares me a bit but the rest is very strong! The bench is of high quality and certainly superior to that of its opponent.
I find the handicap very high given the context. I don’t see Grenoble losing so widely.. Right handicap: +12.5
Bet: Clermont -23.5
First day of TOP 14.
Clermont had a catastrophic 2017/2018 season. The ASM finished 9th and was never able to fight for the TOP 6, so they started training early in order to be ready for the new season. The ASM’s roster has changed marginally. Some turnover players have left (Rougerie, Gérondeau, Chaume, Jarvis, Strettle, Nakaitaci, Speeding). Clermont made a targeted recruitment with very few arrivals. Only Apisai Naqalevu, George Moala and Tim Nanai-Williams signed.
Like all the other clubs in the Top 14, ASM is without its internationals Kolelishvili, Slimani, Cancoriet, Lapandry, Parra, Penaud, Lamerat and Grosso. Fofana, Jedrasiak, Moala and Abendanon are injured. Despite this, the team looks very good. In front it is solid with a third row Yato – Lee – Chouly. At the back, it’s also very heavy with Raka, Toeava, Naqalevu, … On the bench, there are some youngsters like Fischer and Sipili Falatea but that remains correct.
Agen will, again, fight to avoid coming down. This summer, the SUA lost several key players like Arthur Joly (La Rochelle), Antoine Erbani (Pau), Pierre Fouyssac (Toulouse), Filipo Nakosi (Toulon), George Tisley (Bordeaux). Recruitment has not been up to the task. They took many Pro D2 players like Xerom Civil, Romain Briatte, Rimilai Rokoduru. Several youngsters were loaned and experienced Yohan Montès and winger Benito Masilevu joined the club. The goal is not this match but next week’s against Perpignan. Facundo Bosch is in the national team with Argentina, Massilevu, Rokoduru, Fonua, Verdu and Sadie and Phelipponneau are left to rest.
Sam Vaka who arrived last summer will play his first game for a year. The front 8 is correct but at the back, it is very weak. The bench is also very light.
I see Clermont start very strong the season. Clermont can win by 30 or more.
Bet: Perpignan -2.5
USAP dominated the Pro D2 last season. The Catalans finished first in the regular season with 5 points ahead of Montauban and 9 ahead of Grenoble. The Perpignanese had impressed the commentators by their attacks. With 919 points, the USAP had by far the best attack in the championship.
This summer, USAP managed to retain all of its key players while at the same time strengthening itself. The main recruits are the Irish international opener Paddy Jackson (Ulster), the centre Afusia Taumoepeau (Castres), the lock Masalosalo Tutaia (Pau) and the winger Wandile Mjekevu (Toulouse). The halfback from Grenoble, David Mélé, is also back in his old club!
The XV which will start this afternoon is close to the one of last season. Three recruits join the starting XV (Tutaia, Jacson and Taumoepeau), two others are on the bench (Leiataua and Sione). This team is very powerful up front. In fact, she even puts a player like Shaun Eru on the bench. In the back, it goes fast and it’s explosive! The Sang et Or have a few absentees like Seilala Lam, lock Yohan Vivalda, David Mélé and winger Wandile Mjekevu.
After a difficult season when the Stade Français came close to relegation, Parisians put the big guns on the transfer market. Internationals Yoann Maestri and Gaël Fickou have joined the club. Biarritz youngsters Alex Arrate and Kylan Hamdaoui also signed. Other flashy names like Talalelei Gray (Toulouse), Piet Van Zyl (London Irish), Malietoa Hingano (Clermont) and Nicolas Sanchez (Jaguares) came to Paris this summer! At the same time, Paris has kept all its key players!
The Stade Français has also acquired a new staff. Heyneke Meyer joins the club as a sports director with some of the club’s most prominent deputies: Pieter De Villiers, the club’s former emblematic player in the 2000s, and Paul O’Connell, Ireland’s mythical lock.
For this first game of the season, the coaches called only two recruits: Piet Van Zyl and Kylan Hamdaoui. It must be said that Paris has some missing players. Winger Djibril Camara, the hooker Laurent Sempéré and the third-row Alberts, Burban and Tala Gray are injured. Internationals Gaël Fickou, Yoann Maestri and Paul Gabrillagues are forced to rest under the new agreement between the FFR and the LNR. Nicolas Sanchez will not arrive until December.
As a result, the start XV is very light, especially in the back row. Youngster Ryan Chapuis is promoted to the starting line-up. The bench is also weakened with Julien Delbouis who will know his first game sheet.
Perpignan have prepared to be ready for their first match, while the Stade Français are aiming for Bordeaux next week. The USAP has made a preparation to be ready from the beginning of the season while Paris will increase in power until the possible final phases. The Parisian team is very similar to the one that struggled last season. The bench is weak and Stade Français should suffer in the second half. Stadium will be full. I see a great victory for Perpignan.
Bet: Angoulême +5.5
Second day of Pro D2.
Carcassonne got the bonus at Montauban. They could even have won without a defective line-out. But the match was at a poor level. There were many hand mistakes and Montauban wasted many opportunities. Valentine, Lima and Koffi enter the starting XV. Grammatico and Barba are absent.
Angoulême almost won last week in Béziers. They managed to take the defensive bonus thanks to a collective test at the last minute. SA XV has made a big recruitment and hopes to play the lead roles. Lucas Meret and Antoine Roger join the team. Halatavau and Maurens are injured. The team is very solid with a very nice back line.
Angouleme has the means to win in Carcassonne. This game is 50/50.
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator
Bet: Montauban -7.5
Second day of Pro D2.
Montauban beat painfully Carcasonne last week (16-12). The Montalbanais dominated but they made too many mistakes in the last move. They were very good in line-outs thanks in particular to Sergueev who stole several weapons. Last week, the USM could not count on its new players for licensing problems. This week, Luatua and Maninoa are in the team. Two strong reinforcements! Lilomaiava, Braedlin, Briscadieu and Florent Domenech are still blocked by the DNACG. Number 9 Jeremy Chaput is still injured. In his absence, it’s youngster Graou who is the starting star in the scrum.. He didn’t make a good game last week. The rest of the team is very strong with a big pack and a lively and powerful backline.
Biarritz beat Nevers (19-16) last week. They were dominated for most of the second half but, thanks to their good defence and the clumsiness of the Nivernais, they managed to hold on. The BO lost several key players this summer like Hamdaoui, Placines, Adriu Delai and Arrate. They recruited interesting players like Bouldoire, Lazzarotto, Aliouat, … Nevertheless, none has the level of the players who left…
But, for this match, there are many absent like Bouldoire, Knight, Penitoto, Elvis Levi, Singer, Tawalo … Moreover, the coaches decided to do without Bernard, Dubarry and Vakacegu. The team clearly lacks power. The three back rowers have the same tackler / scratcher profile but none can put the team in the lead by its power. At back, the recruits Lazzarotto and Ravuetaki join the starting XV. In the fullback it’s X. Lucu who will begin. He made a catastrophic game last week, in line with his last performances.
Biarritz’s scrum was destroyed by Nevers’. Against Montauban, it shouldn’t hold. At back also, the BO is weakened. I see Montauban win without too much problem. Right handicap : -12.5.
Bet: Oyonnax -1.5
The first day of Pro D2 ends this Sunday at 16h15 with a clash between Aurillac and Oyonnax. The meeting was originally scheduled on Friday evening, but was postponed following the accidental death of Louis Fajrowski, the Aurillacois center.
Aurillac finished 10th last season after playing the lead in 2016/2017. This summer, they lost a very large number of players. Maxime Escur (Tarbes), Maxime Granouillet (Colomiers), Nemani Nagusa (Newcastle), Romain Briatte (Agen), Utu Maninoa (Montauban), Théo Nanette (Grenoble), Maxime Petitjean (retired), Alex Luatua (Montauban), Robet Lilomaiava (Montauban) have all left the club. To compensate for these departures, the directors have taken in many young players and many unknowns.
Aurillac had a drama last week. His centre, Louis Fajrowski died after a friendly match. His funeral took place last Friday and the players are still in shock.
The aurillacoise infirmary is already full. About fifteen players are injured. Among them, there are several potential starters like Anthony Alves, Gregory Fabro, Christian Ostberg, Flavien Nouhaillaguet, Feliuaki Taukeiaho, Lucas Seyrolle, Jone Waqaliva. The XV which starts this Sunday seems to me very light in front. At the back, there are some good players but the bench is weak.
Oyonnax finished second to bottom of TOP 14 after coming out of nowhere. The players of Haut-Bugey thought they had done the hardest but they lost in a play-off in Grenoble ! Despite the downhill, Oyonnax managed to keep many leaders. The USO’s opener Ben Botica, who has been invited by many TOP 14 clubs, has chosen to continue the adventure at USO. He was followed by Tommy Raynaud, Valentin Ursache, Phoenyx Battye, Bilel Taieb, Rory Grice, Dug Codjo, … Only five important players have left the club: Hika Elliot (not retained), Viliami Ma’afu (retired), Patrick Sobela (LOU), Ulupano Seuteni (Bordeaux) and Daniel Ikpefan (Toulon).
Oyonnax even managed to recruit several confirmed players like Etienne Herjean (Brive), Joffrey Michel (Montpellier) or Blaise Dumas (Vannes). This team has managed to maintain stability and this can be seen in the start XV. The front 8 is very solid and at the back, there is speed and quality. What about the bench which has many skilled players.
The Pro D2 is very strong this season. We could see a two-tier championship. Aurillac could experience a very difficult start to the season with its infirmary full and its many departures of leaders. I see the USO making a big start. Right handicap : Oyonnax -4.5