2024 Union Bordeaux Begles vs Stade Toulousain

Top 14 Round 19 Preview: First Post-Six Nations Round Could Mean Chaos

Top 14 Round 19 Preview: First Post-Six Nations Round Could Mean Chaos

There's a clear top two teams and a mid-table jumble in the Top 14 right now, leaving the potential for some late-season drama on the horizon.

Mar 22, 2024 by Briar Napier
Top 14 Round 19 Preview: First Post-Six Nations Round Could Mean Chaos

With international breaks now out of the way, we’re truly getting into the homestretch of the French club rugby calendar.

Excited yet? We are.

There are eight rounds remaining in the Top 14 regular season, which makes plenty of time for clubs to make their last pushes for the title, playoffs or to avoid the potential for relegation, wherever they may be placed in the standings right now.

The best part for many of those clubs is that after having to give up some of their premier names to the Six Nations Championship, they no longer have to worry about it. That more than likely will make for some top-tier rugby down the stretch — and we can hardly wait to get what should be a pulsating couple of months started

Here’s a look at Round 19 of the Top 14 season, with coverage and analysis of France’s top rugby league available all season long on FloRugby:

The Season’s Final Stretch

This year’s Six Nations has wrapped up, meaning that participating players who had been focused on international duty over the past month and a half can hone in on their club rugby, which could be a major benefit to Top 14 clubs in the running for playoff/Champions Cup slots, as the final several weeks of the regular season get going. 

League-leading Stade Francais didn’t have a lot of firepower missing from its squad during the Six Nations — perhaps an important reason why the Parisian club was able to surge to the top of the table, picking up five straight wins, before losing to La Rochelle this past weekend — though Les Stadistes surely will be hoping exciting young fullback Leo Barre turns sensational international form into club production, following a man-of-the-match performance (which included a try) in France’s Round 5 win over England to close Les Bleus’ tournament. 

Stade Francais' main title rival, Toulouse, will get a big injection of players back from international duty, meanwhile; a total of 12 Toulouse players who were called up to their national teams for the Six Nations (including 10 for France) will get to make club responsibilities their main focus for the the next couple of months following the conclusion of the Six Nations. 

That means for Toulouse (which, like Stade Francais, also has won four of its past five matches) that important playmakers, such as prop Cyril Baille, fullbacks Thomas Ramos and Ange Capuozzo and numerous others are back in the fold and will try to help Les Rouge et Noir make a championship push to pick up what would be the club’s 23rd top-flight title — and an important game for their potential playoff standing awaits in Round 19 (more on that in a little bit). 

A Mid-Table Jumble

Beyond the clear top teams in the Top 14 (Stade Francais and Toulouse, who clear everyone else in the competition by at least 10 points), the rest of the league table is an absolute mess, and it’s anyone’s guess right now which club(s) will step forward and firmly solidify their places in the top six — meaning an all-important playoff and Champions Cup slot to whomever is there at the conclusion of the regular season. 

Third-place La Rochelle and seventh-place Section Paloise are separated by a single point in the standings, meaning that the Top 14 table could change dramatically week to week depending on results. 

La Rochelle’s rise up the standings this season, in particular, has been an unusual one, with the reigning winners of the last two Champions Cup trophies looking well off of the pace early in the season with one win in its first five matches, but the superb quality in Les Maritimes’ squad helped it find some form and get back to solidly in the top half, with the door open for them to nab a favorable playoff spot, if the wins keep coming. 

Right below La Rochelle in the Top 14 playoff spots (in order) are Bordeaux, Castres and Racing 92, with Bordeaux and Castres’ slipups in Round 18 to Montpellier and Lyon, respectively, allowing La Rochelle to leap them and take advantage, as it took care of business in a big win over leading Stade Francais. 

Castres and Racing face each other in Round 19.

Rounding out the Top 14’s strongest seven at the moment is Pau, which is having a great season, as the usually relegation-threatened club has the power to finish among the top six teams. It’ll face Clermont, which could use a win, as it is just three points clear of the relegation playoffs. 

Match Of The Round: Bordeaux-Bègles Vs. Toulouse

We’ve been hinting at this matchup throughout this piece, and for good reason. 

Team sheets have not been released as of this writing, but if you’re Bordeaux, you’ll be getting a huge influx of talent back from the Six Nations at just the right time, namely superstar wing Damian Penaud and his emerging opposite Louis Bielle-Biarrey, who together have looked downright devastating at club level for much of the time that they’ve been together at Bordeaux. 

The amount of returning firepower Toulouse is getting, meanwhile, is all over the pitch and undoubtedly will make a difference in the powerhouse club’s title push.

In October, Toulouse and Bordeaux played a 29-22 classic that went the way of the defending champions, with a furious two-try surge in the final 10 minutes (through Capuozzo and scrum-half Baptiste Germain) allowing Toulouse to come back from a late 19-11 deficit and pick up some extra points — something that has come in handy now that it is neck-and-neck with Stade Francais at the top of the standings. 

Will the rematch bring similar amounts of chaos? 

Well, with Six Nations games now out of the picture and both clubs gearing up for their final pushes, it’s definitely not out of the question. In fact, it might be reasonable to expect some hijinks at some point this weekend, whether that’s from late points like the first meeting or from somewhere (or someone) else.

Join The Rugby Conversation On FloRugby Social