Its "Back to School" as French Clubs Kick-off Top 14
25 August 2008 14:34pm
By Angelina Lacroix
Less than eight weeks after winning the 2008 Top 14 final Toulouse will start their campaign to retain the Brennus Shield on Tuesday with an opening round match against Montpellier.
This week sees the Top 14 championship kick-off the European season with a full round of mid week fixtures on Tuesday evening. At the start of the marathon 26 round championship pundits are tipping the big three of Toulouse, Biarritz and Stade Français as the early favourites to win the championship with losing finalists ASM Clermont Auvergne also considered by most to be contenders. However Perpignan with the arrival of Daniel Carter in December and a run of good form last season will also be hoping to be in the mix to reach the last four.
For the rest many believe it is a battle to be in the top six and secure Heineken Cup qualification as the likes of Bayonne and Montpellier will aim to replicate Montauban's success at joining the European top table this season.
Tana Umaga's newly promoted Pro D2 champions Toulon, with new signings Jerry Collins and Sonny Bill Williams, will hope to get their Top 14 campaign off to a winning start with the visit of ASM Clermont Auvergne in what will be a huge challenge for the new kids on the block having lost all of their pre-season friendlies.
Finals Edition: Listen to the best guide to the European Rugby Cup Finals weekend in Dublin, which sees Leinster Rugby take on Stade Francais Paris at the RDS on Friday night in the Amlin Challenge Cup Final and then ASM Clermont Auvergne tackle Toulon in an all-French affair at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.