Top 14

the essential
The Stade Français hopes to start a virtuous circle. After his success in Clermont, he arrives launched… but full of humility in Castres, this Saturday (5 p.m.).

There, right away, now, it may not be the championship team on which we would bet the PEA. Despite its initial success over Clermont (24-18) and the recruitment of Morgan Parra, the only new big head of the squad who left a knee against his former teammates (4 to 6 weeks off), Stade French is not one of the expected leaders of the season even if his ambition obviously remains qualification. But it was not written, either, that Castres would finish at the top of the regular season and climb to the final of the last exercise. So beware…

As for the followers of the Soldats Roses, it must be said that optimism has taken a hit with the failure of last season (11th, only 7 points margin over USAP, play-off), not isolated over the last few years, which left traces. Julien Arias, rear coach in a staff that has been densified, understands this perfectly. However, he is trying to chase away the ghosts who prowl tirelessly: “We have 11 new players, some of them revengeful, experienced guys, others less so. On the state of mind, we were not mistaken. They all have something brought. We feel freshness. At the club, in the team, everyone questioned themselves, we wanted to erase the specter of the start of last season which had hurt. It worked against Clermont. We will try to be more regular. »

Alchemy matter, no names

Maestri and Burban stopped, Waisea and Laumape left. Kylan Hamdaoui, he stayed. He estimates the possible rebound by relying on the Macalou, Gabrillagues, Segonds and others: “We have a very good group, which works well. Contributions are beneficial. It’s not necessarily a problem not to have stars, we have a close-knit group, we can create surprises. Strength does not come from names but from alchemy. In the past, we have already had big players without finishing in the top 6, so…”

A few seasoned warriors have landed. Mickael Ivaldi (32) is one of them. If he “acclimatized quickly and well with this great city of Paris”, the former Lyonnais knows that the season will be tough. From this Saturday in Castres: “The CO has dense, rough guys. When we know their invincibility at home (December 2020), we do not think that it will be fire. It’s going to be a challenge to counter them. »

Julien Arias goes even further: “We don’t pretend to say that we’re going to win there. “The former Colomiers winger, who had taken the reins of the team with Laurent Sempéré before becoming Gonzalo Quesada’s assistant again, was impressed by the Tarnais’ exit last Saturday at the Arena. “We saw that Castres was in place, hard to maneuver. The CO should have won if maybe they hadn’t made a mistake in their management of the last 5-6 minutes. This team has a big game fund, with a strong state of mind. “A team that Kylan Hamdaoui respects enormously: “When you finish 1st in the regular phase and then finalist, that says it all. Their group has not moved too much. They still have a really big pack and their audience is pushing hard. But hey, their series at home, we’ll try not to think about it too much. To avoid prolonging it.
Cyril Pomero

Top 14 – 2nd day: for their trip to Castres, the pink soldiers chase away the gloom