2022 ASM Clermont Auvergne vs Stade Rochelais

French Top 14 Round 4 Preview and Predictions: Winless Streak To End?

French Top 14 Round 4 Preview and Predictions: Winless Streak To End?

Round 4 of the 2022 French Top 14 will hit your screens in the next 24 hours. Before things get underway, here are stories to watch and match predictions.

Sep 22, 2022 by RugbyPass
French Top 14 Round 4 Preview and Predictions: Winless Streak To End?

Round 4 of the 2022 French Top 14 is set to hit your screens in the next 24 hours. 

Proving to once again be the most competitive league in club rugby, the current table presents like a game of snakes and ladders. One win could catapult half of the league into first place, while another loss could see a team’s season slip away before it has even begun.  

Before we buckle up and get ready for another round of exhilarating rugby action, here are our Round 4 stories to watch and match predictions. 

Match Of The Week

This is a gather the horses game for both sides, as Racing looks to keep its unbeaten home record intact, while Toulouse looks to prove last week’s loss was an aberration. 

Fortunately for the Parisians, they are getting Toulouse at a time where they are not at their strongest. 

Having opened the season with back-to-back wins, Ugo Mola’s side fell to a rather heavy loss to Pau last week on the road. 

Further compounding their issues is the lingering injury issues surrounding star fly-half Romain Ntamack, as it remains to be seen whether he will be deemed fit. 

Despite this, Toulouse still possess world-class talent all over the pitch, most notably Antoine Dupont, so they definitely have a chance. 

On their fast pitch, Racing’s tempo of play, which is directed by star fly-half Finn Russell, is tough to handle when it gets going. As always, the forward packs will dictate how the game flows. 

Once again both sides are relatively equally in this department, so no matter your persuasion, there are battles all over the park that should make for fascinating viewing. 

La Rochelle, Undefeated Yet Coachless

La Rochelle enters Round 4 as the only remaining undefeated side in the league. 

Ronan O’Gara’s team utterly obliterated Perpignan in Round 3 and rightly sits pretty atop the league table. Unfortunately for O’Gara and his side, the former Munster and Ireland legend will not be joining the team for the next six rounds. 

Following an altercation with a match official in his side’s round one 23-20 victory over Lyon, O’Gara has picked up a six-week suspension effective immediately. 

His absence from the matchday events will be a major blow for the reigning champions from a tactical standpoint. It will be a baptism of fire for O’Gara’s assistant coaches, as they travel to one of the toughest stadiums in Europe in Clermont this weekend. 

Teddy Thomas Back To His Best 

It isn’t all negative for La Rochelle, as new recruit Teddy Thomas has slotted in with ease. On his day, Thomas has the potential to be the best winger in World Rugby. 

Undoubtedly one of the fastest players in World Rugby, Thomas adds another dimension to an already potent attacking game. His break from inside his own 22 last week against Perpignan set up what likely is to be one of the tries of the year. 

His combination with Dillan Leyds and Jules Favre is as good as any in the Top14 and could prove to be the difference in what is set to be a titanic struggle with Clermont this weekend.    

The Next Great Fijian Star 

Bayonne has been an interesting prospect so far in this young season, losing both of its road games, while picking up an impressive win over Racing at home. 

One major positive for the club has been the emergence of young Fijian 7s star Sireli Maqala. 

Diminutive in stature, Maqala more than makes up for it with pace, skill and downright brilliance. His combination with fellow Fijian Eneriko Buliruarua offers beautiful balance to the backline. 

Buliruarua is a 6-foot-1, 231-pound steam roller, while Maqala is a 5-foot-5, 185-pound flyer. 

Both men feed off each other’s skills and give Bayonne a fascinating young combination that should only get better as the season goes on.

Match Predictions 

Perpignan Vs. Toulon 

As the league’s only winless team, Perpignan is in need of results stat. 

Sitting with only a sole losing bonus point, another loss could see the team's whole season slip away. 

Toulon, on the other hand, has picked up two strong wins with one rather deflating defeat sandwiched in-between. 

Toulon certainly is the better side, but desperation and playing in front of its home crowd will give Perpignan a bump to end their slide in the upset of the week. Perpignan by two points. 

Montpellier vs Pau

On paper, this the most evenly matched fixture of the round, as both sides were sensational in Round 3. 

Montpellier picked up a valuable road win, while Pau comfortably dispatched of an admittedly an undermanned Toulouse. 

Coached by French legend Philippe Saint-Andre, Montpellier rarely plays a boring game at home, and when the crowd gets behind them, they take some stopping. Montpellier by 10.

Castres Vs. Brive

Both sitting with one win, this is yet another crucial early-season clash that could define how both sides end up. 

A harsh reality is facing Castres, which quite frankly is underperforming following an appearance in last season’s final. 

The gulf in talent between the two sides should show in this fixture. Castres by eight. 

Bayonne Vs. Bordeaux Begles 

Bordeaux stopped the bleeding in Round 3, picking up a much-needed win over Castres. 

Bayonne, in turn, showed in its own win over Racing that once again, they are far stronger at home than on the road. 

As is the way with the majority of Top 14 sides, form is a week-to-week proposition with both sides here. Based on gut feel alone, it will be Bayonne by three.

Lyon Vs. Stade Francais

Very different league positions, certainly, but very similar results so far for these two sides. 

Lyon started the season brightly with an away win over Brive, before slipping up at home to La Rochelle, then being beaten out of the gates by Racing. 

Stade has been more consistent, with two home wins, but was comfortably beaten on the road. 

Lyon cannot afford another home loss this early in the season. Lyon by 10.

Toulouse Vs. Racing 92

A tough battle awaits here. Realistically, both sides could win the title this season. 

Ntamack’s potential absence is a big one for Toulouse. Tomas Ramos is a brilliant player, but the balance of the team's attack certainly works better with Ramos at 15 and Ntamack at 10. 

On the other side, Finn Russell looks to be in fine form, and is putting himself in the shop window ahead of what now looks like a likely departure from Racing at the end of the season. 

It will be tight, but Racing will pull off the win at home. Racing by six.

Clermont Auvergne Vs. La Rochelle

Another contender for game of the week, as the only remaining undefeated team put it all on the line against another giant of the league. 

Clermont is famously a tough nut to crack at home and has the potential to open up any opposition with a lethal attacking game. 

O’Gara’s absence from the sideline will be a factor, but the European champions are looking so slick right now that a loss is hard to imagine. La Rochelle by one point!

Written by Philip Bendon