Ex-All Blacks centre Saili's Biarritz face 'hell of a push' for Top 14 safety

Paris (AFP) – Former New Zealand centre Francis Saili said Biarritz face a "hell of a push" to remain in the French Top 14 before hosting Brive this Saturday.


The Basque outfit, promoted last season after seven years in the second-tier, are bottom of the table with just two wins in their opening seven games of the campaign.

Earlier this month, the five-time league champions were forced to sign Toulon front-rower Bastien Soury as medical cover with three first-choice hookers out injured.

"It's going to be a hell of a push given what's happened within our camp with injuries but no excuses," Saili told this week's episode of Le French Rugby Podcast.

"It's not like in ProD2 where some games you can kind of hide, these games, week in week out it's like Test match footy.

"We're going to have to control what we can, which is coming in with the right attitude first and hopefully we can get some results like we did against Bordeaux-Begles and Racing 92," the 30-year-old added.

Off the field, the club's president Jean-Baptiste Alidge has threatened to move them to Lille due to a dispute with Biarritz's local government over the redevelopment of their Parc des sport d’Aguilera home.

Saili said there was also an option to relocate across the Spanish border, where they have traditionally played a handful of headline matches.

"Him and the mayor, I'm not too sure how much I can talk about, but they have their love-hate relationship. I'm not too sure how much love or how much hate," Saili said.

"We heard we might be going down to San Sebastian, that's a more likely scenario. We'd like that more than Lille.

"The only good thing about Lille is that they have (fast food restaurant) Five Guys, that's the only bonus," he joked.

'Awkward' Sopoaga

Elsewhere, Saili's former fellow All Black in Lima Sopoaga could make his first Lyon start for the trip to Stade Francais.

Lima Sopoaga made the last of his 16 New Zealand appearances in 2017
Lima Sopoaga made the last of his 16 New Zealand appearances in 2017 FRANCK FIFE AFP/File

On Thursday, Lyon posted an article on their website with their squad for the visit to Paris but Sopoaga, who joined from Wasps during the close-season, was left bemused at being absent, before the team was corrected.

"That's awkward no one told me," Sopoaga posted on Twitter.

A third ex-New Zealand back in George Moala is set to return to Clermont's side to welcome Pau after missing two games with a wrist issue and champions Toulouse face local rivals Castres almost 100 years to the day since their first meeting on October 30, 1921.

The weekend finishes off as under-pressure Patrice Collazo takes his Toulon side to his former employers La Rochelle.

New signing in South Africa's Rugby World Cup winner Cheslin Kolbe was presented to the Toulon crowd last Saturday before witnessing their fourth loss of the season.

Fixtures (times GMT)


Bordeaux-Begles v Perpignan, Stade Francais v Lyon, Biarritz v Brive, Clermont v Pau (all 1300), Racing 92 v Montpellier (1500), Toulouse v Castres (1900)


La Rochelle v Toulon (1905)