2023 Stade Francais vs Stade Toulousain

Top 14 Round 9 Preview: Melvyn Jaminet Aiming To Make Toulon Debut

Top 14 Round 9 Preview: Melvyn Jaminet Aiming To Make Toulon Debut

The transfer shuffle across the French top flight continues, as Melvyn Jaminet eyes game time with his new club — while his old club brings in a successor.

Dec 1, 2023 by Briar Napier
Top 14 Round 9 Preview: Melvyn Jaminet Aiming To Make Toulon Debut

Get ready to catch some familiar names in new colors soon.

The post-Rugby World Cup shuffle of players from elsewhere to some of the world’s top clubs is in full swing, and the Top 14 is reaping the benefits of getting an influx of new talent to further the standard of France’s top flight.

With around a third of the calendar complete, those same players could prove vital in title challenges and push for continental rugby in the near future, especially as injuries and general wear and tear begin to rack up when the meat of the league calendar really gets into full swing.

Some incoming transfers already have made their first appearances with their new clubs, while others await their turns and get up to prime fitness. When those players arrive on the pitch, however, fans of the Top 14 should be in for an even grander show week in and week out across the division.

Here’s a look at what’s at stake in Round 9 in the Top 14 this weekend, including top storylines and the match of the round:

New Faces, New Places

Numerous high-profile transfers, both from within the Top 14 and from leagues elsewhere, over the past few months, have increased the standard in what’s already considered to be one of (if not the) best club rugby competition in the world, and the recent influx of stars hasn’t slowed down much as the weeks have progressed. 

Damian Penaud’s in-league shift from Clermont to the Bordeaux Begles, Semi Radradra’s return to France with Lyon and World Cup-winning captain Siya Kolisi’s blockbuster move to Racing 92 were among the most notable signings of the offseason in the Top 14, but the moves across the division have continued as the season has gone along — and their impacts will continue to be felt all across France. 

For instance, league champion Toulouse plucked Scotland international Blair Kinghorn from United Rugby Championship side Edinburgh earlier this month, after the club’s previous starting fullback, France international Melvyn Jaminet, left to make a midseason move of his own to Toulon, and the 26-year-old Rugby World Cup veteran is expected to make his debut with his new club as soon as this weekend. 

Add in future incoming arrivals, such as New Zealand all-time caps leader Sam Whitelock at Pau (which is making a surprise charge at the top of the table through eight rounds), and the structure and shape of the Top 14 (including who challenges for the title) could change seemingly on a weekly basis, as outside players get more accustomed to the league’s brutal 10-month schedule and more in-tune with what it demands, plus how to produce within it. 

Toulon Turning A Corner?

The only club in the Top 14 at the moment on a three-match winning streak or longer, Toulon, after starting the 2023-2024 league campaign 1-2, has shot up the table into fourth place on 23 points as of this writing, seeing it level with three other clubs in a top-half jumble and five points back of league leader Racing. 

That three-match winning run, by the way, included a victory over the current table-toppers — a 31-26 triumph in Round 6 — as Toulon has timed the stretch of good form well with the arrivals of Jaminet and emerging All Blacks star Leicester Fainga’anuku (from Super Rugby’s Crusaders), each of whom made their training debuts with the club this week. 

The New Zealander isn’t quite ready to go yet, but according to Toulon’s squad list for its critical fixture Saturday against Pau, Jaminet is, as he could make his official debut in his new kit this weekend. He’ll join a strong set of backs that includes Fijian international Setariki Tuicuvu, who scored twice in Toulon’s 41-19 victory over Castres in Round 8, and Scotland scrum-half Ben White, a London Irish exile and member of his country’s World Cup squad who agreed to terms in the summer with the French club after the English club’s collapse into administration. 

Perhaps Toulon’s slow start was due to the fact it just needed a bit of time to iron out the kinks and ensure its tinkering with the lineup was working. 

As the season progresses, however, it sure does seem that coach Pierre Mignoni has figured out a formula and has something cooking.

Match Of The Round: Stade Francais Vs. Toulouse

A rivalry that reached its peak in the 2000s, when the two clubs combined to win six of the decade’s Top 14 championships, the two most successful teams in the history of French top-flight rugby almost always see their showdowns mixed in with a ton of hype and hoopla. 

With both clubs even on 23 points and within striking distance of the league lead, there once again will be a lot on the line when the two teams clash in Paris on Sunday, but the match also will have a bit of controversy surrounding it, stemming back to an incident involving the hosts following their 30-6 loss at the hands of Pau in Round 8. 

According to the French newspaper L’Equipe, an altercation between a member of Pau’s coaching staff and an unnamed Stade Francais player — who broke team rules by leaving the team hotel with other players and two members of the coaching staff, per the club — within the city of Pau after their match resulted in the Parisian club “applying adequate disciplinary measures” in response to the incident. 

How that affects Stade Francais in such a critical fixture remains to be seen, but Toulouse, which is looking to win a second straight match after taking care of business against Clermont a week ago, could take advantage of their opponent’s internal turmoil and steal the points as it continues to climb up the rungs of the Top 14 ladder.