Parisse return set to boost champions Stade Francais
15 Oct 2015 - 8:33
Paris: Champions Stade Francais should be able to count on talisman Sergio Parisse as they belatedly try to get the defence of their Top 14 title kick-started on Friday.
Stade host 2013 champions Castres at their smart Jean Bouin stadium, propping up the table alongside promoted Agen in the relegation zone on just four points after a single victory from their opening four matches.
With Italy out of the World Cup, No.8 Parisse is almost certain to be a part of Stade's match-day 23, although he is unlikely to start.
"He's not yet at 200 percent but he feels good," said Stade's Argentine coach Gonzalo Quesada.
"If we don't have any negative surprises between now and Friday, he'll be in the group. But we won't be doing anything crazy."
Parisse is recovering from a calf problem that limited his World Cup playing time to just 65 minutes against Ireland.
The 32-year-old sat out Italy's first two matches against France and Canada before also missing their final clash with Romania after admitting he had rushed his comeback in lining up against the Irish.
Samoa prop Zak Taulafo has been given a week off while Fiji wing Waisea Nayacalevu and Georgia prop Davit Kubriashvili are injured.
There is some irony to Stade hosting Castres in their current predicament.
Having won the Top 14 title in 2013 and reached the final a year later -- both times playing Toulon -- Castres spent last season flirting with relegation before a late rally saw them survive.
Before the World Cup break, Quesada warned his team not to "do like Castres or Perpignan" -- the latter who were relegated in 2014 having reached back-to-back Top 14 finals in 2009 and 2010 -- and get embroiled in a dog fight.
But they come into this match very much under pressure ahead of the Parisian derby against Racing 92 a week later.
They are not the only club welcoming back international stars from World Cup elimination as Montpellier, who travel to Grenoble on Friday, will be able to call on Fijians Timoci Nagusa and Akapusi Qera, although Georgian prop Misha Nariashvili is an injury doubt.
Montpellier have also signed South African fly-half Demetri Catrakilis on a three-year deal to provide competition for Francois Trinh-Duc.
Fiji's elimination from the World Cup is a big boost to French sides, and not just in the top flight, as 13 of the 31-man squad ply their trade in France.
Clermont will welcome back flanker Peceli Yato but a bigger plus perhaps is the return of prop Davit Zikarashvili due to Georgia's elimination, although the league leaders have given both a week off.
Georgia going out was particularly important for French rugby as 18 of their squad play in France, although many outside of the top flight.
Clermont host Pro D2 champions Pau whose away form has left a lot to be desired so far this season, despite winning both their home matches.
Clermont started the season on fire, winning their first three matches and claiming an attacking bonus point each time, but they stalled at home to Bordeaux-Begles in their last match a month ago, drawing 26-26.
Having shipped 75 points in their opening two away games, though, Pau may be hoping just to keep the score down.
European champions Toulon don't play until Saturday when they travel to Brive -- winners of European rugby's premier club competition in 1997 but who have since fallen on hard times -- with Georgia captain and key flanker Mamuka Gorgodze due to return from international duty.
Toulon had got off to a disastrous start, losing their first two matches, but despite their many international absentees, recovered to win the next two, starting with a success at Stade Francais.
In other games, four-time European champions Toulouse entertain La Rochelle, Oyonnax host Racing 92 and Bordeaux are at Agen, all on Friday.