French Rugby: Top 14 Will Become Top Four
The French League is winding to a close, and those who'll be contesting in the playoffs are becoming clear. Already Clermont Auvergne, Stade Toulouse, and Stade Francais have booked their spots in the semifinals.
The French, as they do every year, have conjured up another sensational rugby season. Undoubtedly the best league in the world, the flair and excitement is second to none.
The very fact French philosophy states "Run, Run, Run" means trys, most usually of the spectacular nature, are guaranteed. The footballing skills on display are unmatched, and show why many southern stars wish to play their trade in France.
As for 2007/08, the show has been stolen by two sides—Clermont Auvergne and Stade Toulouse.
Both have displayed scintillating back play and powerful forward play. Hence, both sit at the top of the Top 14 tree, and are favorites to reach the Stade de France final in three weeks' time.
Clermont began slowly while Toulouse hit the ground running. However, injuries and a prolonged European Cup campaign meant Toulouse hit a slump. Clermont racked off 10 straight victories, including a 54-10 mauling of reigning champions Stade Francais.
Clermont has the advantage—they'll play Biaritz or Perpingan in their semis, and both sides, although no pushovers can match the power of Clermont. A full strength side to choose from will mean they'll certainly contest the finale.
Toulouse has been given a cruel blow by being robbed of the best winger of the year, Vincent Clerc, and key full back Poitrenaud. Both players will sit on the bench until September.
However, Stade Francais is not the force like it was 12 months ago. Hernandez's mind appears to be at Leicester, while the rest of the squad has not preformed. Toulouse should edge this one.
Clermont vs. Toulouse. Bookies will say the former, but Toulouse has dealt with heartache by losing the Heineken Cup final, and is stronger for it. That experience will come in handy in the Stade, so expect the trophy to reside in Stade de Toulouse come September.
Clermont Auvergne 32-18 Perpingan
Stade Toulouse 20-16 Stade Francais
Clermont Auvergne 23-26 Stade Toulouse
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