Friday, 10 June 2016
Racing 92 will be hoping to welcome back Dan Carter for their Top 14 play-off clash at home to Toulouse on Saturday.
The New Zealand legend has been missing from the pitch since limping out of the European Champions Cup final three weeks ago with a calf problem.
Carter has been resting ever since and missed Racing’s final three regular season league matches, including last weekend’s 40-25 victory over Montpellier that secured a home play-off tie.
The 34-year-old returned to training just before the Montpellier clash but trained alone.
He is likely to be called upon this weekend where he should line up opposite compatriot and fellow All Black international Luke McAlister.
Racing come up against a Toulouse side in fine form and on a six-match winning run, during which time they beat the top two — Clermont and Toulon — as well as Racing.
Only Toulon scored more tries during the regular season than Toulouse.
McAlister was rested against Grenoble last weekend when a youthful Toulouse romped to a crushing 53-14 victory.
These two sides have met twice before at this stage of the competition, in 2013 and 2014, both times at Toulouse’s ground with honours even.
It’s not just Carter that Racing are hoping to get back for the Toulouse visit, but also his fellow Kiwis, No.8 Chris Masoe and centre Casey Laulala, as well as France prop Edy Ban Arous.
Racing are aiming to finish their season on a high following the disappointment of losing the European final to Saracens.
They were criticised last week for not pushing for the attacking bonus in their win over Montpellier — a result that would have seen them take second place ahead of Toulon and earn a bye this weekend.
– ‘Massive team’ –
But scrum-half Maxime Machenaud said after that match that they were fully concentrated on the job ahead.
“We have three more matches to be champions. But there’s no euphoria because we know what’s waiting for us (this) weekend against Toulouse, a massive team,” he said.
“There are six huge teams left for one place (champions), but first of all we’re going after a semi-final place.”
Toulouse have some regrets about finishing fifth in the regular season, with coach Jean-Baptiste Elissalde believing they should have finished higher.
“We could have out-dipped everyone on the line in this league. We deserved to be one or two places higher,” said Elissalde, who added that the trip to Racing was “not mission impossible”.
“But it’s very difficult to win there. They’re the European vice-champions.”
On Sunday, Montpellier and Castres meet for the fifth time in six years in the play-offs.
Montpellier won 18-17 at Castres in 2011 but then lost to the same opponents in the next three years in a row before neither side made it into the top six last season.
“We’ve been playing them (in the play-offs) for several years now, this time we’re at home,” said Montpellier scrum-half Benoit Paillaugue about the Castres match.
“We’re going to have to play the perfect match because we’ve got the taste of something fabulous and we want to taste it again.”
Paillaugue was referring to Montpellier’s European Challenge Cup victory over Harlequins three weeks ago, the club’s first ever major trophy.
Castres, the 2013 champions, needed a late charge to pip Bordeaux-Begles to sixth place.
They won their last three games while Bordeaux lost two of theirs.
“The aim was the top six, the season is long and we’ve been through every emotion but… we can be proud and satisfied that we’ve achieved this objective,” said Castres centre Remi Lamerat.
Racing 92 v Toulouse (1845 GMT)
Montpellier v Castres (1415 GMT)
Source by: AFP