Oyonnax have recently been promoted to the Top 14 after winning the Pro-D2, with a 17-point margin over Brive, who also got promoted in the play-offs.
Oyonnax have added no less than 16 new players to their squad this summer. That is tempered by 11 departures, including last season's excellent scrumhalf Julien Audy. Among the more notable signings are Guillaume Boussès, Silvère Tian and Damian Browne. 31-year-old English hooker Neil Clark joins from the Exeter Chiefs.
Oyonnax are captained by Englishman Joe El-Abd. The 33-year-old flanker spent three seasons with Toulon before becoming an Oyonnaxien last season. His leadership and know-how will be crucial. Fly-Half Benjamín Urdapilleta is the on-pitch heartbeat of the side. The 27-year-old scored 232 points in the Pro D2 last season, and looks at home in Oyonnax after two years with Harlequins.
Having just started the Top 14, they lost their first game against Bayonne 39-11. Their coach is Christophe Urios.
They play at Stade Charles-Mathon, which has a capacity of 6,000. They play Sale there on Thursday 5th December.
Biarritz made a superb start to last season, winning their first four league matches before a shocking turn in form saw them lose six in a row. After defeat to Connacht in December, club president Serge Blanco sacked coaching duo Serge Milhas and Jack Isaac. BO's Sporting Director, ex-France No. 8 Laurent Rodriguez, assumed the position of forwards coach, with Didier Faugeron drafted in as backs coach. Under the new coaching team, Biarritz's performances improved and they finished the season in ninth.
Despite that, Blanco remains optimistic for the club he loves so dearly. He told Midi Olympique that "our ambition once again will be to finish in the top six and go as far as possible in the Challenge Cup."
Biarritz have recruited well in the off-season. They signed Dan Waenga. The 27-year-old Kiwi fly-half made his Super Rugby debut off the bench for the Chiefs this season after years of ITM Cup experience with Hawke's Bay and Bay of Plenty.
Italian international lock Josh Furno joins from Narbonne. Tongan international Ueleni Fono (31) joins from relegated Agen.
The most exciting signing is perhaps Joe Pietersen from the Stormers in South Africa. The 29-year-old has seven years of Super Rugby experience and is a sharp attacking presence from fullback.
Dimitri Yachvili is still the man in Biarritz. At 32, he remains the key for them. If he can avoid injuries and find his best form, the side will flourish. Yachvili is the side's playmaker from scrumhalf, and he is given free reign to play the game as he sees fit.
Imanol Harinordoquy has been plagued with injuries for the past two seasons, but remains an important player for them too. In the centre, Damien Traille is still going at the ripe old age of 34. His experience and defensive leadership are likely to be deployed at 12. Outside him at 13, Benoît Baby had one of the best seasons of his career and on the wing, American winger Takudzwa Ngwenya's searing pace is always a threat.
They play at the Parc des Sports Aguiléra, which holds 13,500. They play Sale Sharks there on 16/17/18/19 January.
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