French Top 14

Top 14: Five Takeaways From Round 4, Familiar Face On Top

Top 14: Five Takeaways From Round 4, Familiar Face On Top

French Top 14 2022, Round Four Recap

Sep 27, 2022
Top 14: Five Takeaways From Round 4, Familiar Face On Top

Round four of the 2022 French Top 14 stayed true to it’s roots as it was once again a thoroughly unpredictable and uniquely edge of your seat style spectacle.

Unlike just about any other league in the game, the Top 14 most resembles the NFL’s “any given Sunday” mantra. 

Parity is a celebrated quality of the Top 14 as any side on their day can pick up an unlikely win with the opposite being true as a giant can fall without notice. 

So let’s get to it and assess the biggest story lines emulating from round four.

A Familiar Face Back On Top

That didn’t take long… Toulouse’s temporary absence from the top of the table was so short lived that if you blinked, you’d miss it. Hosting Racing on paper should’ve been a tough challenge for Ugo Mola’s men. Ultimately the battle was won upfront as the Toulouse forwards played some blindingly good rugby, in particular the trick play for their first try. Antoine Dupont on front foot ball is simply a disaster for any opposition defence, his attacking threat bought extra time for the ever-dangerous Thomas Ramos who has been sublime filling in for the injured Romain Ntamack at flyhalf. Ramos was once again deadly accurate from the boot slotting 7 from 7 as he outplayed opposite number Finn Russell with ease. Last week’s league leaders La Rochelle slipped up rather significantly away to Clermont, but Ronan O’Gara’s side will remain an ever-present threat to Toulouse as the weeks go by.


Perpignan Stop The Bleeding 

About time, simple as that. Perpignan could not afford another loss if they covet any realistic ambitions of avoiding relegation. Beating a heavily favoured Toulon side was a great way to end the losing streak and will help settle some nerves around the club. Up next is a very winnable fixture at home to Castres who themselves have struggled so far this season. Perpignan’s struggles has been a tough watch, at one point they were one of the most powerful clubs in European rugby. Those days now appear to be firmly behind them and as such remaining in the Top 14 must surely be their number one goal this season. 


A League Of Parity

How about this for parity, one-win separates 1st position from 11th after four rounds. For a neutral fan this is quite frankly exhilarating viewing, for a born and bred club fan who lives and breathes their club this is nerve-wracking. Certainly, this will shake out as the season goes but one month into the season and the difference between first placed Toulouse and 11th placed Pau is simply nothing, in fact Pau beat Toulouse in round three. Every week is a battle in the Top 14 which emphasises why at times the French clubs prioritize the league over success in the European Cup Competitions. Round five could well see the status-quo remain as all of the fixtures have the potential to keep the table’s current log jam in place.


Montpellier Make A Direct Swap

Recently crowned as the best player in the Top 14, Englishman Zach Mercer has already signed a contract to return to the Premiership next season. As one exceptional English number eight departs another will join as it is reported that Exeter Chiefs star Sam Simmonds is on his way to replaced Mercer at Montpellier. Interestingly both players play a similar style of game, preferring the role of ball players rather than ruck hitters. Simmonds athleticism is so heavily lauded that many have suggested he could play in the backline as a powerful centre. Whether Simmonds achieves the heights of Mercer remains to be seen but Phillippe Saint-Andre and his staff seem to have a clear recruitment process.


Top 14 To Raid Premiership?

Whilst the Top 14 continues to flourish, England’s Premiership has had a rough go of it recently. Two clubs look set to be booted from the league with the Rugby Football Union already confirming that Worcester Warriors must cease all rugby action indefinitely as they try to navigate severe financial mismanagement. Joining Worcester in the doghouse are Wasps who too have significant financial issues facing them at the present moment. Should either or both of the clubs fold completely, several top line players will immediately become available. Names such as Ollie Lawrence, Duhan van der Merwe, Joe Launchbury, Vincent Koch and Matteo Minozzi could be prized options for Top 14, Premiership and URC clubs. 

Written by Philip Bendon