Best-placed French Top14 teams prior to Six Nations window

Best-placed French Top14 teams prior to Six Nations window
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Looking at the French Top14 team’s classment, prior to the 2020 Six Nations beginning on February 1, may indicate which teams could ultimately be best placed for a run towards the 2019/20 title.

As the season was placed ‘on hold’ for the European Professional Rugby club competitions; Champions Cup/Challenge Cup, with Round 14 about to see teams refamiliarize themselves with their domestic opponents. One full round, to test once again which teams are best placed for this strange period of the Top14 season.

Staggered over this particular window, since January 4 [the last full round for French Top14 teams].

Not a period of constant competition, although the European and national representative games will take just as much energy for all players involved. Those men who have been called on to join the Six Nations group, may need to concentrate harder this weekend. Remind themselves, as their teammates will, that the Bouclier de Brennus is still on the line.

The teams leading on the points table now, may not be the same ones who finish the regular season. Being first, or fourth this round doesn’t necessarily mean you will be there in June.

Best placed French Top14 teams prior to Six Nations window

Restarting from a break can be a difficult period for sides in the Northern hemisphere. One hardly acknowledged by teams south of the equator. Just how regularly it occurs, and what effort is required to return to French Top14 duty.

At this point, who is leading?

Bordeaux Bègles stands tallest at this time. Through their actions, the Begles are in an alien position; bursting upward since their 10th place finish last season.

Lyon Rugby (Lou) are comfortably following their Bordeaux neighbours to the East. Again, elevated higher than many presumed they would be this year. Lyon fans are more than pleased with how Pierre Mignoni is directing the team.

Below them, are RC Toulon, Stade Rochelais, and Racing 92 rounding out the top five.

Will either side be hampered by the 2020 Six Nations competition?

Bordeaux Begles have five players within the squad, three for the Lyon club. Not high attendance, and not a high number to sacrifice – a reason both sides should not be fearful of ‘as much strength’ being removed during the Six Nations fortnight-fixtures.

Of the chasing teams, who might suffer the most from the preparations and Six Nations fixtures? Charles Ollivon, the Toulon back-rower, has been named captain of the French squad. He and seven of his teammates will put a dent in that Toulon club’s performance during the championship. While it occurs each year, how the group can mend their loss, will answer questions over that team’s capabilities of maintaining a top-five place.

Two players from La Rochelle [Stade Rochelais] will hardly interrupt that side, whereas Racing 92 are likely to suffer from the representative season. Five senior players will pressure the roster, yet with the pedigree of Racing, many will presume the Paris-club can persevere.

The fixture list also has an influence, with the challenges to sides like Bordeaux and Lyon, coming from their direct opposition. In fact, on February 15, they meet each other, at Jacques Chaban-Delmas stadium. That could be a pivotal moment for each side – win, and they carry momentum onto their following matches.

On Feb 22, Stade Rochelais meet RC Toulon, Clermont host Bordeaux Begles, and Lyon invite Racing down to Matmut Stadium Gerland. If each of the French Top14 teams has the full services of their Six Nations players, then it could alter the standing of the competition.

Adaption during Six Nations window important

While this weekend is a ‘stand-alone round’ before the interruption of the Six Nations, the work accomplished already by the best-placed Top14 sides counts for much. Those competing in European competition must also take credit for their place in the standings.

The top five do not have a large points break above the remaining teams. Only 10 competition points divide La Rochelle from 12th placed Castres. Consecutive losses would alter the standings, so expect some changes over the next four to five rounds [naturally]. Matches between one v two, between the top five, will affect how the table looks by March – after the Six Nations ends.

Adaption is the key to every team. To each nation in fact. For the chasing French Top14 teams, adapting to losses to their playing XV is where any improvements can be found.

Matthieu Jalibert in action during the European Rugby Challenge Cup Round 5 match between Bordeaux Begles and Edinburgh Rugby at Stade Chaban-Delmas on January 11, 2020 in Bordeaux, France. (Photo by Romain Perrocheau/Getty Images)

The Bordeaux side will lose five men, so adapting the group to cover the likes of Jefferson Poirot and Matthieu Jalibert especially, is critical.

Importantly for the table-topping Begles, staying on course during the many weeks with no fixtures planned will maintain their conditioning. So finding ways to retain their current advantage – and sustaining that over the next months – will show if they are a valiant team, worthy of the title.

The Six Nations begins on February 1. An interruption yes but, this period might also prove whether Bordeaux and Lyon are competition leaders; or imposters.

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