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Friends reunited as Lyon eye Toulon upset in French Top 14

PARIS (AFP) – 

Struggling Lyon will look to their Toulon old boys to stun the big-spending, three-time European champions when they clash in the Top 14 on Sunday.

Lyon, third from bottom of the table, have just three wins from nine games so far this season while Toulon are third and within touching distance of top spot.

But in their ranks, Lyon can boast star fly-half Frederic Michalak, full-back Delon Armitage, centre Theo Belan, flanker Virgile Bruni and veteran prop Alexandre Menini, all of whom are former Toulon players.

Even coach Pierre Mignoni has Toulon in the blood — he is Toulon-born and was a former player and backs coach with his hometown team.

Michalak, now 34 and with 77 French caps in his collection, has played in seven matches this season after ending a four-year spell with Toulon to play for the promoted club.

“He brings the experience we were missing at fly-half,” said Lyon skipper Julien Puricelli.

“The players feel confident when Frederic is on the pitch and he is humble, respectful and generous.”

Former England international Armitage played 72 times for Toulon after joining from London Irish in 2012.

After four years with Toulon, he too left for Lyon in the summer.

“Delon is a very ambitious player, a killer,” said Puricelli. “He has brought his desire to succeed.

“Two years ago, we lost at Toulon and we were missing character in the team. The coaches understood this and I think that’s the reason Pierre Mignoni signed him.”

Meanwhile, All Blacks legend Dan Carter will miss his second consecutive match when Racing 92 host Montpellier on Saturday as the fly-half star recovers from injury.

World Cup winner Carter hurt his calf in the warm-up for last weekend’s laboured 16-3 win at bottom club Bayonne and will sit out the visit of Montpellier who are flying high in second spot, five points ahead of Racing down in seventh.

Defending champions Racing must find a way past the league’s meanest defence if they are to keep in touch with the play-off spots.

Montpellier, coached by former South Africa World Cup winning coach Jake White, have conceded just 154 points and only 12 tries.

Montpellier just squeezed past La Rochelle 12-11 last week thanks to a last-minute penalty from Ben Botica, who could start at fly-half against Racing to allow South African star Francois Steyn a break.

Clermont go into the weekend with a five-point lead at the top boasting the tournament’s best offensive record with 292 points and 29 tries scored.

They face second from bottom Grenoble, who have the league’s worst defence having conceded 305 points and most tries — 35.

Clermont will welcome back Fiji winger Alivereti Raka, one of the stars of last season. He will make his first appearance this campaign after a six-month absence following shoulder surgery.

Rested for last week’s 40-16 win at Brive, half-back pairing Morgan Parra and Camille Lopez will start.

Clermont are without John Ulugia, Julien Bardy, Paul Jedrasiak, Judicaël Cancoriet (all injured) as well as the suspended Fritz Lee.

Sebastien Vahaamahina, Arthur Iturria, Damien Chouly, Wesley Fofana, Remy Lamerat and Scott Spedding are all away with the French national team on international duty.

Saturday (Kick-offs GMT)

Bordeaux v Stade Francais (1345), Toulouse v Castres, Brive v Bayonne, Clermont v Grenoble (all 1730), Racing 92 v Montpellier (1945)

Sunday

La Rochelle v Pau (1130), Lyon v Toulon (1515)

© 2016 AFP

Article source: http://www.france24.com/en/20161104-friends-reunited-lyon-eye-toulon-upset-french-top-14