Toulon RC in eye of storm as La Rochelle visit

Paris (AFP) - Toulon will be under increased scrutiny this weekend at home to La Rochelle as the European champions continue to be implicated in a medication scandal.

Toulon are part of two separate investigations surrounding chemists, in which the club's players have been accused of illegally receiving medication.

While investigators and the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) have confirmed Toulon's assertion that this is not a doping case, it is nonetheless an unwanted distraction during a tricky period.

With more than a dozen players -- including high-profile new signings such as New Zealand's Ma'a Nonu and Ireland captain Paul O'Connell -- on World Cup duty, it's a patchwork side that has lined up for the club's first three Top 14 matches this season.

Following defeats at home to Racing 92 and away to 2013 champions Castres, Toulon went into Sunday night's clash at champions Stade Francais bottom of the table, but an inspired performance from Australia international Lachlan Turner from full-back, scoring the winning try four minutes from time, helped them get off the mark for the season.

Ultimately, despite the absentees, Toulon still managed to field a squad with 10 full internationals in the starting line-up and three more on the bench.

That ultimately told against the severely weakened champions, who even gave teenage Georgian prop Giorgi Melikidze a brief debut off the bench -- Toulon's replacement props were Australia international Salesi Ma'afu and France international Alexandre Menini.

The European champions will be expected to win at home to La Rochelle, who got their first win of the season last weekend 21-18 at home to Brive.

While Toulon should now kick on from their win in Paris, Stade Francais appear in desperate trouble ahead of a trip to Montpellier, fresh from their impressive 24-22 win at Bordeaux-Begles.

Montpellier have been less hard hit by international absences than many other teams and can call on the likes of first choice fly-half Francois Trinh-Duc or former Australia captain Ben Mowen.

Stade Francais are kept off the bottom only by points difference with the two promoted sides Agen and Pau the ones below them.

At the top of the table, Clermont will feel confident of continuing their perfect start to the season -- three bonus-point wins from three -- at home to Bordeaux, who have looked far from impressive in their last two fixtures.

Clermont have already plundered a league-leading 13 tries from three games while conceding just two -- compared to Bordeaux's three scored and seven conceded.

Toulouse have been the only team keeping pace with Clermont after three wins, although no bonus points, but they travel to rock bottom Pau, last season's second division champions.

Pau have had a rude awakening to Top 14 life on the road, losing 34-18 at Stade Francais to start the season before going down 41-15 at Grenoble a week ago.

However, in between, they did win 26-16 at home to Montpellier so will feel more confident at their Stade du Hameau.

Third placed Grenoble take a trip to fifth-placed Racing, with both on two wins from three so far.

Fixtures (all times GMT):

Friday

Castres v Oyonnax (1845)

Saturday (1630 unless stated)

Toulon v La Rochelle (1245), Racing-Metro v Grenoble, Montpellier v Stade Francais, Clermont v Bordeaux-Begles

Sunday

Brive v Agen (1030), Pau v Toulouse (1500)