Stade Francais and Bordeaux set for Top 14 thriller

Paris (AFP) - Stade Francais entertain Bordeaux-Begles in what promises to be an exciting and high-scoring affair in the French capital on Saturday.

It is also a crucial clash between two sides looking to establish themselves as genuine title contenders -- they come into the match sitting fifth and third respectively in the table.

But what makes the match-up particularly exciting is the history between the sides and, in particular, Bordeaux's try-happy form.

The team from France's most famous wine region have scored more than 50 points in three of their last four matches -- thrashing Clermont 51-21, Castres 59-7 and London Welsh 52-20.

Clashes between Stade and Bordeaux the last three seasons have also been high scoring affairs with the winning side never managing fewer than 30 points, while last year's match in Bordeaux finished 45-23 to the hosts.

However, they have not enjoyed much success in Paris, going down 37-23 last season.

The hosts have recovered after a tricky start to this season, even pulling off a highly-improbable 28-24 win at French and European champions Toulon last month before going into the European break on the back of a 23-19 derby success against Racing-Metro.

"They had some problems at the start of the season but now they're in good form. They beat Racing, which isn't an easy derby to manage," said Bordeaux forwards coach Regis Sonnes.

Either side could go top of the league with victory, ahead of leaders' Clermont's trip to Bayonne later on Saturday and Toulon's clash with Grenoble on Sunday.

Toulon will be able to count on in-form Australian versatile back James O'Connor, whose entry from the bench against Ulster for compatriot Matt Giteau at fly-half in the European Champions Cup last weekend proved a turning point for the reigning champions, who won 23-13.

However, the 24-year-old told that he still prefers playing at full-back or on the wing, while he reiterated his intention to return to Australia in December to try to force his way back into the Australia set-up before next year's World Cup in England.

Toulon suffered a rare setback earlier this month before the two-week break for European rugby, losing 21-10 at Toulouse.

However, they will be highly fancied to pick up a win against Grenoble and keep the pressure on Clermont, whose trip to Bayonne could be complicated.

A month ago the Basques thumped Toulouse 35-19 at their Jean Dauger stadium.

All three of their victories this season have come at home, although they were beaten there by both Toulon and Montpellier.

Even so, Clermont have had some recent difficulties on their travels, crushed by Bordeaux at the beginning of this month and then conceding four tries in a 30-23 loss at Saracens in the Champions Cup.

The leaders will be without Wales centre Jonathan Davies who is out for up to three weeks with a shoulder injury.

Other weekend fixtures see challengers Montpellier and Racing play away to lowly La Rochelle and at home to rock-bottom Oyonnax respectively.

Faltering Castres travel to second-from-bottom Brive looking for their first away win of the season.

As well as their Bordeaux humiliation, the 2013 champions and last year's runners-up have lost away to both newly promoted sides this season, not to mention going down 25-9 at Harlequins in Europe.

The final weekend match sees Lyon host Toulouse, the record four-time European champions also looking for their first league away success of the season.

Defeats at La Rochelle, Brive, Racing and Bayonne have left them well down the league table but they have won their last four matches, beating Stade Francais and Toulon in the league before successes against Montpellier and Bath -- their only away win this season -- in Europe.

Fixtures (1730 GMT unless stated):


Bayonne v Clermont (1945), Brive v Castres, La Rochelle v Montpellier, Lyon v Toulouse (1345), Stade Francais v Bordeaux-Begles, Racing Metro v Oyonnax


Toulon v Grenoble (1200)