Toulon look to 'seduce' try-starved Savea
Triple European champions Toulon travel to last season's table-toppers Montpellier on Sunday struggling to score tries and win games but at least attempting to see the funny side.
Toulon brought in their usual haul of stars in the summer, including Julian Savea, a winger who scored 46 tries in 54 appearances for the All Blacks.
"The Bus" has yet to score and Toulon are the only team in Top 14 not to have reached a century of points.
Julian's wife Fatima Savea became so infuriated watching her husband starved of the ball that she tweeted: "When you can see the frustration on your husband's face...I swear this team doesn't know how to pass".
When she found she had ignited a furore, Fatima Savea deleted the tweet.
This week, Mourad Boudjellal, the Toulon owner, responded by making a joke about her tweet in his podcast, saying he believed it was important to "seduce" the wives in order to make players want to perform for Toulon.
He added: "I'm not saying anything bad about Madame Savea, because you've seen how her husband is built."
Toulon's pack has been hit hard by injuries and Boudjellal has seemingly been working to rebuild a forward platform that might unleash his stellar collection of backs.
French media reported on Thursday that the club had signed Nick de Jager, a back row, from the Blue Bulls of South Africa, and were close to adding hulking Samoan lock Brian Alainu'uese from Glasgow Warriors.
The weekend opens on Saturday with league leaders Clermont bent on revenge at La Rochelle.
Last September, Clermont, the reigning champions at the time, lost 51-20 at Stade Marcel Deflandre, a defeat that set the tone for a lacklustre season.
La Rochelle scored seven tries in the first half and their eighth a minute into the second.
It was a "spanking", Clermont hooker Benjamin Kayser told his club's web site this week.
Coach Franck Azema said it would be a good time to assess where the club was, but "not until after this game."
"It will be a good test," he said. "Especially since we still have in the back of our heads the 50 points we conceded last year in a match where we did not exist. It will be interesting to see our attitude."
"This is not the time to fall asleep."
Clermont can recall back row Alexandre Lapandry, who suffered a concussion in their solitary loss at Bordeaux, and all-purpose back Peter Betham, but fullback Nick Abendanon underwent shoulder surgery on Thursday. La Rochelle captain Victor Vito is available again.
Victory will cement Clermont's grip on first place because two of the four teams immediately below them must drop points.
Third-place Racing 92 entertain fifth-place Lyon on Saturday and second-place Stade Francais travel to fourth-place Castres on Sunday.
While Clermont are threatening to pull clear at one end of the table, Perpignan are in danger of losing contact at the other.
-- 'Totally crazy' --
The Catalans have yet to win on their return to the top division. The last five teams to lose their first six games have all been relegated.
"Perhaps we are totally crazy, but we still believe," coach Patrick Arlettaz told the media.
Perpignan travel to Pau on Saturday desperate to prove they can compete after taking a physical beating this season.
"We're sick of hearing that all the teams in Top 14 are stronger, that we've got a have a small team and a small budget," forwards coach Perry Freshwater told the club web site. "We've got to stop thinking about that and talking about that. We are determined to get our hands on the ball, smash everyone in front of us and stop crying."
Fixtures (all times 1600 GMT unless specified)
La Rochelle v Clermont (1245), Grenoble v Bordeaux-Begles, Pau v Perpignan, Racing 92 v Lyon, Toulouse v Agen (1845)
Castres v Paris (1030), Montpellier v Toulon (1450)
© 2018 AFP