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Afp

Montpellier eye play off spot without experienced pair Picamoles, Ouedraogo

By AFP
media Skipper Louis Picamoles has played for Toulouse and Northampton in between two spells with Montpellier AFP/File

Billionaire-backed Montpellier head to Clermont without veteran forwards Louis Picamoles and Fulgence Ouedraogo as they look to clinch a French Top 14 play off spot in the final round of regular season action this weekend.

Owned by Syrian-born businessman Mohed Altrad, Montpellier sit in sixth spot needing to better seventh-placed La Rochelle's result against Bordeaux-Begles on Saturday if they are to maintain hope of improving on their runners-up finish from last year.

But the club based on the Mediterranean coast have good form at Clermont having not lost at the Stade Marcel-Michelin -- where the hosts are unbeaten this season -- since 2014.

Captain Picamoles and Ouedraogo, who have 116 France caps between them, will miss the trip to Clermont due to head injuries they suffered in last Sunday's crucial victory over Stade Francais.

"It's bad news. We won't have Fulgence or our captain Louis for the game. Due to concussion protocols they have to be rested for seven days before they can play again," head coach Vern Cotter said this week.

Clermont, the only side in the competition yet to lose on their own ground this term, have already secured a semi-final spot with a guaranteed second-placed finish.

Saturday's clash will be retiring international hooker Benjamin Kayser's final home game after eight campaigns in central France.

Big-spending Racing 92, who travel to Agen, and reigning champions Castres, who host Toulon, seem to have already tied up their spots.

Parisians Racing will have to do without free-scoring Simon Zebo and Teddy Thomas who are rested for the weekend's match having contributed 24 tries to their club's cause so far this year.

It will be an emotional affair at Stade Pierre-Fabre as head coach Christophe Urios says his goodbye to the Castres faithful.

Urios, who led the club to their fifth French crown last June, told AFP on Thursday his announcement in November had a big impact on his own and his squad's performance.

"I manged the period poorly, it was a tough time for me," he said.

"When I told the players I had signed with Bordeaux-Begles I felt they were quite shocked.

"It was like the players felt a little bit abandoned," he added.

At the other end of the table, already relegated Perpignan head to Toulouse and Grenoble prepare for their relegation play off by welcoming high-flying Lyon.

Grenoble will face the loser of the second-tier Pro D2 final as former European champions Brive face Bayonne.

The winner on Sunday at a sold-out Stade du Hameau in Pau is automatically promoted to the French top-flight.

Fixtures (all Saturday 1415 GMT):

Agen v Racing 92, La Rochelle v Bordeaux-Begles, Stade Francais v Pau, Grenoble v Lyon, Castres v Toulon, Clermont v Montpellier, Toulouse v Perpignan

 
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