Vincent Clerc is anticipating a "fantastic" 2020-21 Top 14 season after the previous campaign was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bordeaux Begles were eight points clear at the summit with nine games of the regular season remaining when the action was brought to a halt.

The season was scrapped at the end of last month and it is hoped the best teams in France will be back on the field to start again in September.

Former France wing Clerc is expecting big things when rugby union returns in his homeland and thinks the 2019-20 competition was nicely poised for a gripping finale.

He told Stats Perform: "Who impressed me last season? There are players, of course, but if I have to choose a team, it's Bordeaux. They had a fantastic season.

"They are the Top 14 leaders. We have also seen an amazing start for Bayonne. Before the break, Toulouse were coming back. I think it was an undecided/uncertain season.

"This year, Toulon also had a good season. So it was a nice championship this year. I am looking forward to see it starting again.

"I think next season can be fantastic, because the 2019-20 season was very enjoyable. I am looking forward to the next season."

Clerc says the players will need some game time before next season begins.

"No, they [the players] can't be at 100 per cent [in September]. Maybe there will be some friendly games," he added. 

"But if there is no friendly game, the physical preparation and the training sessions will never replace the matches. So they will need some matchdays to find their pace, to find the right intensity.

"Everybody will return to the competition, everybody will try some things and find their balance. But it will take some matchdays, for sure."

The Premiership has been suspended for five weeks and the quarter-finals of the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Premiership Rugby's decision followed new guidance from the United Kingdom government on Monday.

British prime minister Boris Johnson encouraged people to avoid mass gatherings and all "non-essential" travel and contact with others.

"The safety of our fans, players and staff is our first priority, and we would like to wish all of those who are affected our heartfelt best wishes and a very speedy recovery," a Premiership Rugby statement read.

"We'll continue to work closely with DCMS [the Departure for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport] and Public Health England, and to follow the advice of medical experts, and work with our clubs to help them to support their own wider communities at this time."

The decision to call off the European rugby season was taken during a conference call on Monday.

It means the matches in the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup scheduled for April 3, 4 and 5 will not now go ahead as planned, although organisers hope to rearrange the fixtures for later dates.

In a statement, the board of European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) said: "While respecting all further directives by governments and local authorities, EPCR, in conjunction with the relevant leagues and unions, remains committed to trying to find a solution which will enable it to complete the 2019-20 Champions Cup and Challenge Cup tournaments at such a time as that aligns with preventative measures undertaken by an overwhelming majority of sport's governing bodies and tournament organisers in Europe.  

"EPCR's priority is the health and welfare of players and club staff, and an update regarding the knockout stages of the tournaments will be communicated to all stakeholders as soon as practicable."

Rory Kockott missed a late conversion as Bordeaux-Begles survived a scare against Castres to stretch their lead at the summit of Top14 thanks in part to the boot of Ben Botica.

Fly-half Kockott had a chance to tie the scores when Anthony Jelonch crossed five minutes from time at Stade Chaban-Delmas but was unable to split the posts.

It meant Bordeaux – now eight points clear of second-place Lyon – held on for a 26-24 triumph despite being outscored four tries to two on home turf, with Castres settling for a losing bonus point.

Botica was crucial to the win, nailing two penalties that opened up breathing space.

Earlier, Blair Connor and Mahamadou Diaby had crossed for Bordeaux to cancel out Julien Caminati and Rodrigo Capo Ortega scores, with Filipo Nakosi also going over for Castres.

There was late drama at Stade Mayol too, with a last-gasp penalty from Toulon fly-half Louis Carbonel swinging an end-to-end match in his side's favour as they beat Stade Francais 19-18.

The result was cruel on Top 14 strugglers Stade, who recorded tries through Lester Etien and Kylan Hamdaoui to make it 18-16 in the closing minutes.

However, Toulon hit back to grab a victory that moves them into the top four in the standings, while their beaten opponents remain bottom. 

Geoffrey Cros grabbed a double as Top 14 leaders Bordeaux Begles beat Clermont Auvergne 31-22 to go eight points clear after Toulon were beaten at La Rochelle on Saturday.

Versatile back Cros scored a try in each half at Stade Marcel-Michelin, where Remi Lamerat also crossed in the first half and Jules Gimbert touched down to give Bordeaux breathing space late on.

Seta Tamanivalu's yellow card, which resulted in Morgan Parra slotting over a fifth penalty, set up a tense final but Gimbert's score ensured Bordeaux took maximum points.

Clermont led 19-14 at half-time courtesy of 14 points from the boot of Parra and a Paul Jedrasiak try, yet they were unable to finish off the job and sit in sixth place.

La Rochelle leapfrogged Toulon to go third with a 17-12 victory at Stade Marcel Deflandre.

Struggling Stade Francais had claimed a surprise win over La Rochelle last weekend, but Arthur Retiere scored the only try of the game in the second half and Jules Plisson landed four first-half penalties to get them back on track.

Pau dropped to the foot of the table after slumping to a 26-16 loss at Castres despite Mathieu Babillot's red card, while Loris Tolot claimed a brace of tries as Agen moved off the bottom with a 30-16 win at Brive.

Stade were brought back down to earth after their victory at La Rochelle, going down to a 28-17 defeat at Bayonne to sit second-bottom, with Agen rising two places.

Bordeaux-Begles scored two tries in the last eight minutes to earn a 37-19 win over Top 14 rivals Lyon that moved them above their opponents at the league summit.

Lyon came into Saturday's match at Stade Chaban-Delmas with a two-point lead at the top of the table but they now trail by three after Bordeaux landed a bonus-point triumph.

The match was hanging in the balance with the hosts 20-19 ahead going into the closing stages, but Seta Tamanivalu and Santiago Cordero scored pivotal converted tries in quick succession.

Earlier in the contest, Fiji star Semi Radradra had emphatically bounced back from a spell in the sin-bin by scoring a double for Bordeaux as they recovered from an early deficit, Lyon having crossed for the first try of the match.

But while two penalties apiece from Charlie Ngatai and Jonathan Wisniewski kept the visitors within striking distance in a match that was 10-10 at the interval, Mickael Ivaldi's 17th-minute effort proved their only try.

It was a welcome return to form for Christophe Urios' Bordeaux side after their loss to defending champions Toulouse last time out.

Elsewhere, La Rochelle failed to keep hold of third place as they fell to a last-gasp 21-20 loss away to struggling Stade Francais.

Facundo Bosch appeared to have given the visitors a come-from-behind victory, but Stade Francais' Nicolas Sanchez crossed in the fourth minute of additional time after Jules Plisson had been sent to the sin-bin.

La Rochelle drop below Toulon, whose wing Daniel Ikpefan dotted down twice in a comfortable 34-17 home win over Brive.

Clermont Auvergne are sixth after they stormed back with 10 points in the final seven minutes to grab a 23-20 win at Pau. 

In another close encounter, Montpellier held off a late Bayonne fightback to record a 31-29 home victory, Nemani Nadolo scoring a hat-trick.

Defending Top 14 champions Toulouse defeated Bordeaux-Begles, who missed the chance to return to the top of the table on Sunday.

Lyon beat Toulon on Saturday to unseat Bordeaux at the summit, and a 22-14 away reverse the following day - inspired by Thomas Ramos - kept the visitors in second.

Ramos scored a try, dispatched two conversions and also a penalty to supply half of Toulouse's points as they climbed to sixth.

There was a dramatic finish at the bottom of the table, meanwhile, as Agen climbed from 14th place thanks to a 23-22 win at Bayonne.

Jamie-Jerry Taulagi bundled his way over in the 78th minute, and Leo Berdeu held his nerve to add the crucial extras in a narrow success.

Lyon were grateful to Xavier Chiocci for a late try as they scraped past Agen, avoiding an upset in Top 14 action on Saturday.

Visitors Lyon are second in the table, with Agen second from bottom, but failed to score in the first half, trailing 12-0 at the break.

Jonathan Pelissie was sent to the sin bin as he conceded an early penalty try, before Andres Zafra Tarazona crossed, and Lyon ended the half with Liam Gill having also seen yellow.

The high-flying away team were still behind heading into the closing stages, despite a pair of Jonathan Wisniewski penalties.

But Chiocci went over in the 75th minute, and Wisniewski kept his nerve with the conversion to seal a tense 13-12 victory.

Lyon still trail Bordeaux Begles, though, after the Top 14 leaders brushed aside Bayonne 22-3.

Bordeaux were in control from the first minute when Jean-Baptiste Dubie scored, and tries followed from Kane Douglas and Remi Lamerat before a scoreless second half.

Jules Plisson had a try, four conversions and three penalties for third-placed La Rochelle in a 44-13 success at Pau.

Racing 92 are back in fourth and beat Clermont Auvergne 27-19, as Teddy Iribaren similarly starred with a try, three conversions and a pair of penalties.

Elsewhere, Thomas Darmon's 75th-minute try meant a late Brive response mattered little, Montpellier winning 29-26.

Toulouse and Toulon lost ground on the leading two as Bordeaux-Begles returned to the Top 14 summit at the expense of Lyon on Sunday.

Reigning champions Toulouse surrendered a comfortable lead to draw 13-13 at home to Toulon, while Bordeaux emerged 27-23 victors at Pau despite a late scare.

A Thomas Ramos penalty got Toulouse off the mark and the full-back converted Sebastien Bezy's 14th-minute try to send them into half-time in control.

Another three points from the tee courtesy of Ramos put the hosts 13 ahead, but Louis Carbonel reduced the arrears when he crossed in the 52nd minute.

France scrum-half Antoine Dupont made his return from a back injury sustained at the Rugby World Cup and helped Toulon salvage a draw, with a pair of Anthony Belleau penalties ensuring the spoils were shared.

The result was a boost for Bordeaux, who scored the first try of their game against Pau despite being down to 14 men after Remi Lamerat was shown a yellow card.

Scott Higginbotham was the man who crossed, before Santiago Cordero touched down twice – the second while Dominiko Waqaniburotu was in the sin bin.

Bordeaux took a 14-point lead when Tom Taylor was shown a yellow card and conceded a penalty try in the 60th minute, with Antoine Hastoy converting a Daniel Ramsey try and adding a three-pointer from the tee at the death to ensure Pau left with a losing bonus point.

Clermont Auvergne were temporarily reduced to 13 men in the second half of their 39-22 triumph over Castres.

Sebastien Vahaamahina was shown a yellow card for repeated infringements and Anthony Jelonch darted over after Rory Kockott took the penalty quickly.

Sitaleki Timani responded to Kockott touching his head as he went to celebrate with his team-mates by striking the Castres scrum-half in the face. After the ensuing melee, Kockott was sent to the sin bin and Timani was shown a red card.

Castres used their numerical advantage to run in another two tries, but Morgan Parra and Greig Laidlaw kept them at bay from the tee.

La Rochelle lost to Bordeaux last weekend but returned to winning ways at home to struggling Agen, running in six tries in a 40-8 triumph.

Peni Ravai sent Bordeaux-Begles to the Top 14 summit as his late try secured a 20-15 victory over La Rochelle on Sunday.

A club-record crowd of 38,503 saw the match at Matmut Atlantique hang in the balance at 15-15 going into the final 10 minutes.

However, Fijian prop Ravai was driven over in the 72nd minute as Bordeaux pushed for the victory that at one stage had looked a formality.

They led 12-0 after half an hour behind four penalties from Matthieu Jalibert, only for Jules Plisson to hit back with four successful kicks of his own to tie the match.

Jalibert nudged Bordeaux ahead again in the 55th minute but Plisson soon replied again, setting up the close finish from which Ravai emerged as the hero.

Bordeaux head coach Christophe Urios, quoted on the team's Twitter page, said: "We can say it was a perfect afternoon, even if we complicated the task.

"I'm going to have a very, very good Christmas. Now what is important is [the December 29 match against] Pau."

Bordeaux nudged ahead of Lyon, who were beaten on Saturday at Castres and fall to second place.

Pau had debutant Ben Smith sent off as they suffered a 21-18 defeat away to Stade Francais.

The All Blacks great was dismissed after 50 minutes for leading with his elbow when challenging opposition hooker Lucas Da Silva, landing a blow around the neck area.

In the late game, Toulon nudged up to third place after winning 41-19 at home against Clermont Auvergne.

Montpellier ran in five tries in a 33-8 rout of Top 14 leaders Lyon as Bordeaux-Begles closed the gap at the summit by edging past Racing 92. 

Lyon - beaten in the semi-finals last season - had won eight of their first nine games in this campaign but they were blown away by Montpellier, who were 21-0 up at half-time thanks to tries from Nemani Nadolo, Bismarck Du Plessis and Louis Picamoles.

The visitors finally got on the board with a Jonathan Wisniewski penalty in the 51st minute but further scores from Nico Janse van Rensburg and Youri Delhommel increased Montpellier's lead before Xavier Mignot crossed for a consolation late on.

Bordeaux took advantage of Lyon's slip up with a 34-30 victory over Racing as Matthieu Jalibert provided 14 points from the boot.

It was announced this week that Semi Radradra will join Premiership side Bristol Bears for next season but the Fiji international showed he was not distracted by his upcoming move with two of Bordeaux's four tries.

Sergio Parisse scored Toulon's try in a 19-9 success over Pau, while Brock James and Jules Plisson kicked five penalties between them as La Rochelle defeated Castres 22-13.

Clermont Auvergne were also victorious, a strong second-half display helping them to a 30-13 triumph over Agen.

Bristol Bears have signed Fiji star Semi Radradra on a three-year contract.

The 27-year-old wing will move to Ashton Gate ahead of the start of the 2020-21 season.

Radradra lit up the Rugby World Cup pool stages in Japan this year despite Fiji winning only one match, against Georgia, and losing to Australia, Uruguay and Wales.

Formerly of Toulon before joining Bordeaux-Begles last year, Radradra also scored 82 tries in 94 appearances in the NRL for Parramatta Eels.

"I'm looking forward to coming to the Premiership and to be playing under [director of rugby] Pat Lam at Bristol Bears," he told the club's website. 

"They are one of the most exciting teams in Europe right now and the way that they are doing things is making everybody take notice.

"I visited the world-class facilities at Ashton Gate and saw the progress of the new training ground – it's a fantastic club to be joining with a bright future ahead. I can't wait to get started and contributing to the Bristol Bears vision."

"There is no doubt that Semi is one of the best players in the world – he's truly a world-class performer and we are so excited about what he can do for the team," Lam added.

"Every top club across both codes on the planet wanted him, so for Bristol to be able to bring in a player of his quality underlines the fantastic work that the club is doing. Semi has clarity about our vision and knows what the club want to achieve. As a person and a player, he is perfect for our culture which places an emphasis on community and high performance.

"I got to know Semi well at the Barbarians and we were blown away by his professionalism and dedication. He is world-class because of the relentless work and preparation he puts into his game, day in day out. It’s no surprise that he has taken the World Cup and French Top 14 by storm – Semi is the ultimate professional.

"We believe the Premiership is the best league in the world and Semi's arrival into the league will only enhance the product further. He's an unstoppable force and we are looking forward to seeing him light up the competition for the next three seasons."

Top 14 champions Toulouse maintained their 100 per cent home record this season with a dominant 34-8 defeat of Clermont Auvergne.

Toulouse have worryingly lost each of their first five away games this term, but they have been untouchable at home and that trend continued on Saturday.

In the day's late kick-off, a repeat of last season's final, the hosts stormed into a 24-0 half-time lead thanks to tries from Sofiane Guitoune, Maxime Medard and Romain Ntamack.

Clermont failed to cross in the 2018-19 decider and their breakthrough score counted for little here, with Alivereti Raka's 46th-minute try unable to inspire a fightback.

Gillian Galan then secured a bonus point at the other end 10 minutes from time.

Earlier in the day, Bordeaux-Begles moved level on points with Lyon, who play on Sunday, at the top of the table after seeing off Agen at home.

The visitors were held scoreless as Bordeaux stayed patient, building on a 6-0 advantage at the break with tries from Santiago Cordero and Yann Lesgourgues.

Montpellier played out a draw for the second time this season as Anthony Belleau's penalty four minutes from time earned a share of the spoils for Toulon at 19-19.

There was late drama at Castres, too, where Brive were agonisingly denied by an 81st-minute kick from Julien Dumora.

Francois Da Ros' try two minutes earlier looked to have earned Brive an away win, but Dumora kept his nerve in a 28-26 success.

Meanhile, Pau scraped past Bayonne 9-3 in a game of no tries.

Bordeaux-Begles could lose ground on Top 14 leaders Lyon after slipping to their second defeat in three matches at Brive.

Mahamadou Diaby's ninth-minute dismissal proved decisive as Christophe Urios' Bordeaux were beaten 30-9, the extra man proving telling for the hosts in the final 15 minutes.

Brive's lead was only 16-9 going into the final quarter of an hour but Julien Blanc and Matthieu Voisin went over to make the points safe on Saturday.

Lyon have a four-point lead over Bordeaux and can stretch that with a win over Clermont Auvergne on Sunday.

Bayonne could have closed the gap on the top two but instead fell to a 20-9 loss at the hands of Toulon.

Defending champions Toulouse's poor start to the season continued at Montpellier – who ran out 33-22 winners thanks to a double from Gabriel Ngandebe and 15 points from the boot of Anthony Bouthier.

Elsewhere, Pau beat Castres 37-24 while struggling Paris clubs Racing 92 and Stade Francais remain in the bottom two after defeats to La Rochelle and Agen respectively.

Clermont Auvergne returned to winning ways in the Top 14 as Jake McIntyre's fine kicking propelled them to a 32-18 victory at struggling Stade Francais.

The home side took the lead four minutes in, though McIntyre - who tallied 22 points - immediately pulled Clermont level with a penalty, before two more three-pointers in quick succession nosed the visitors further ahead.

Joris Segonds responded with a penalty of his own, though Adrien Lapegue's yellow card swiftly took the wind out of Stade Francais' sails.

European Challenge Cup winners Clermont were reduced to 14 when Sitaleki Timani was sent to the sin bin on the stroke of half-time - Stade Francais taking advantage as Kylan Hamdaoui claimed the game's first try.

But Clermont took control after the restart, Samuel Ezeala and Fritz Lee going over in quick succession, with more accurate kicking from McIntyre ensuring Jonathan Danty's try was no more than a consolation as last season's runners up earned a first win in three matches.

Earlier, Bordeaux-Begles maintained their unbeaten start to the campaign draw with a 17-17 draw at Montpellier.

Martin Devergie's 69th-minute try and a penalty from Anthony Bouthier looked set to claim the points for Montpellier, but second-placed Bordeaux battled back.

Ben Botica's penalty four minutes from time secured a share of the spoils, with Bordeaux heading to league leaders Lyon, who they are two points shy of, next time out.

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