2023 ASM Clermont Auvergne vs Union Bordeaux Begles

Top 14 Round 11 Game Of The Week: Clermont Vs. Bordeaux-Begles

Top 14 Round 11 Game Of The Week: Clermont Vs. Bordeaux-Begles

Experience rugby brilliance in the Top 14 Game of the Week! Clermont faces Bordeaux-Begles in a thrilling showdown between two in-form teams.

Dec 29, 2023 by Briar Napier
Top 14 Round 11 Game Of The Week: Clermont Vs. Bordeaux-Begles

What a year of rugby in France.

Major European trophies, pulsating club seasons and, of course, a Rugby World Cup, all made 2023 a year to remember for rugby in France, and the final weekend of the year of its domestic club competition is on the horizon.

And the final weekend in the Top 14 for 2023 looks primed to deliver.

Though multiple high-profile fixtures on the slate are worthy of your attention, a showdown in one of France’s proudest rugby cities — Clermont-Ferrand — should give the close of the calendar year a worthy conclusion, as it’ll play host to a matchup with high stakes for league placing and qualification for the Champions Cup.

Here’s a look at the Top 14 match of the week for the final round of 2023, Clermont vs. Bordeaux-Begles:

Blistering Bordeaux

Unbeaten in its past five matches in all competitions, Bordeaux-Begles has romped its way to three straight Top 14 victories and thrown in a pair of dominant Champions Cup pool stage wins — seeing the club lead Pool A halfway through the competition’s opening round — with it for good measure. 

Yes, in terms of the club’s recent domestic form, there is a bit of a caveat; those three consecutive wins have come against three of the last four teams in the Top 14 standings - Perpignan, Oyonnax and Lyon - while Bordeaux (a playoff semifinalist a season ago) still is looking for that signature victory in league play to rocket it back toward the top of the championship discussion. 

Can a victory over Clermont this weekend to cap off 2023 do just that? 

That’s debatable, but considering the position in which coach Yannick Bru is going to put his squad for Round 11, it certainly would be an impressive and statement result if Les Girondins got it done. 

Bordeaux is expected to be without an array of heavy hitters, as Damian Penaud, Louis Bielle-Biarrey, Matthieu Jalibert and Sipili Falatea — all of whom played for France at this year’s Rugby World Cup and have been thrown right into the club season’s fire upon their returns from international duty — are resting and sitting out the club’s final fixture of the calendar year. 

With such a lethal attack frequently led by devastating winger partnership Penaud and Bielle-Biarrey when all pistons are firing (Bordeaux has averaged 39.6 points per match across its ongoing winning streak), the points are going to have to come from other faces this time around. 

Replacement wingers Madosh Tambwe on the left and Pablo Uberti on the right will have a lot of work to do and ground to make up with their numbers called as part of Bordeaux’s starting XV.

Can Clermont Recover?

Clermont, in eighth place, needs a win in Round 11 to avoid sliding further down the Top 14 pecking order and falling into the danger of a lost season with no Champions Cup slot once again, much like a season ago, when Montferrand finished a deflating 10th. 

Keep in mind that this is a club that won the Challenge Cup five years ago and made the league playoff final — its third trip to that stage in a five-year stretch — so for Clermont to be at this point after so much recent success over the past decade is a rightful cause for concern for the club’s supporters.

Three losses in its past four Top 14 matches indicate a potentially dangerous slump (though the win did come against league-leading Racing 92, to be fair). Against a short-handed Bordeaux this weekend, it would be crucial for Clermont to pick up points and start jostling among the Top 14’s top half — and stay there. 

Over half the team (eight players) has been changed from Clermont’s 22-11 loss to Pau a week ago. 

Pau is the surprise side of the competition and still rolling along in second place in the table as of this writing, but leading try scorer Peceli Yato (four tries) is back in Montferrand’s lineup at center to give the attack a needed boost. 

Veteran Argentine fly-half Benjamin Urdapilleta is out due to a shoulder injury, meaning senior France international Anthony Belleau gets the start at the No. 10 spot for the first time this season in his place. 

It’s a competitive lineup that certainly can do some damage on Bordeaux, and with what’s expected to be a sold-out crowd at the Stade Marcel-Michelin watching along, Clermont should have plenty of motivation to close out 2023 on a high note.