French champions Racing 92 will look to arrest an alarming run of away defeats when they travel to Brive on Saturday.
The Parisians have lost all three games on the road this season despite having looked impressive at their Stade Yves du Manoir home, including two weeks ago when they put Toulon to the sword (41-30).
Yet on their travels they have yet to pick up even a losing bonus point and were thrashed 47-10 by Clermont at the beginning of the month.
Following last week’s 31-23 defeat at Castres, the 2013 champions, flanker Yannick Nyanga said the reigning title-holders should do better than that.
“If we want to demonstrate our status (as champions) we have to be able to play as well at home and away,” said the France international.
Racing have made no secret of their priorities this season, targeting a another run to the European Champions Cup final.
Last year they were beaten 21-9 by Saracens in the title decider in Lyon before landing their first French crown in 26 years a few weeks later.
Racing’s backs coach Laurent Labit said of the Castres defeat: “This match was supposed to test us to prepare for the Champions Cup, which is our number one goal this year.”
Racing face a daunting pool including former European champions Leicester Tigers and Ulster, as well as 2015 Celtic League winners Glasgow.
In Brive, though, they face opponents who have won both their home matches this season but who also pulled off the shock of the season in claiming a stunning 25-21 victory at Toulon four weeks ago.
– Disciplinary problems –
But they have paid for their indiscipline in defeats at Grenoble and Montpellier.
Brive are averaging more than 15 penalties a match this season, have picked up 12 yellow cards and one red and passed the 100-minute barrier of time spent at a numerical inferiority already in the current campaign.
Their match at Grenoble was also marred by a huge flare-up that resulted in three of their players — prop Damien Jourdain, centre Arnaud Mignardi and full-back Benjamin Lapeyre — being suspended for three weeks while fly-half Matthieu Ugalde was hit with a 14-week suspension for eye-gouging in the same match.
All four will be missing against Racing.
Scrum-half Jean-Baptiste Pejoine complained that Brive have picked up an unfair reputation for being dirty since returning to the top flight three years ago.
But he said they now have the squad to cope with the absences.
“Indiscipline is normally seen in teams that are being dominated, but last year it was usually us who provoked errors in our opponents,” he said.
“Now we have a bigger squad which should allow us to compensate for the absentees through suspension.”
Meanwhile, three-time European champions Toulon are feeling much better after following up their Brive debacle with victories over heavyweights Toulouse and Clermont.
Former Bath head coach Mike Ford also arrived on Monday to take charge of coaching the backs.
“We’re on the right track but it’s true that the defeat to Brive was a non-match.” said scrum-half Sebastien Tillous-Borde.
“It really hit us hard. We need to erase it.”
Toulon, currently fifth, face a tough test at home to second-placed Montpellier on Sunday.
Elsewhere, surprise early-season leaders La Rochelle are away to 2015 champions Stade Francais, struggling down in ninth, on Sunday.
Third-placed Clermont host Castres on Saturday looking to regain the top spot they lost in defeat at Toulon, while rock-bottom Grenoble face a daunting trip to Toulouse.
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Clermont v Castres (1245), Bayonne v Lyon, Pau v Bordeaux-Begles, Toulouse v Grenoble (all 1630), Brive v Racing 92 (1845)
Stade Francais v La Rochelle (1030), Toulon v Montpellier (1415)
© 2016 AFP