French Top 14: a three-horse race?

6 French teams are playing both the French top 14 domestic competition and the european Heineken Cup: Stade Français, Biarritz, Bourgoin, Perpignan, Toulouse and Clermont.

Playing 26 regular games plus pay-offs plus (at least) 6 Heineken Cup games during a season will be hard for them all and makes of the French rugby season a long-distance race.

Provided this six teams were the best last year one would expect the final winner of the Top 14 shall arise from one of these, but the truth is that the favourites are mostly reduced to three: Stade Français, Biarritz and Toulouse. Can the results say something else? Let's see it.

After 4 games have been played at the Top 14 and 3 at the Heineken Cup, these teams look like this:

Stade Français: Current champions of the Top 14 and reached QF lasts year at the Heineken's Cup. They have a powerful line-up, specially at first five eighth. Their start of the season has been quite good and Stade Français is currently second at the Top 14 and leader of its pool at the Heineken Cup but away loses to Toulouse and Bristol (this one being a painful 17 vs 0 defeat) show a weakness that must be overcome if they are to be title contenders.

Toulouse: Byron Kelleher's side is the only undefeated team at the Top 14 after 4 rounds. In an impressive display of power, they defeated current champions Stade Français in convincing fashion and their only loss in this start of season was against Aron Mauger's Tigers. With players like Pelous, Elissalde or centre Kunavore they have the depth and the experience.

Biarritz: With a powerful scrum, they have had slow start at the Top 14 but are performing a good pool phase at the Heineken Cup, where they have defeated the Saracens and their only loss was last week to Glasgow. Their powerful line-up give them excellent chances in such a long competition.

Our opinion: Toulouse have an edge at this point of the competition that they will use to build into confidence and eventually become winners of the Top 14.

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