At Colombes this evening, the Ciel et Blanc play host to the Scarlets in the fifth round of the European Cup. A contest which remains a crucial game in the Racing season, despite having only a very slim chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals. (Crédit : Fabrice Aygalenq // Attitude Rugby).
There is no such thing as a game with nothing to play for. That is the message that the Ciel et Blanc coaches Laurent Travers and Laurent Labit hammered home to the players this week. Admittedly, before this penultimate round of the European Cup, Racing Metro 92 has already virtually no hope of qualifying for the quarter-finals. With only 6 points in Pool 4, in order to overtake leaders Clermont (15 points) the Racingmen will have to pull off two bonus point victories, while hoping that their French opponents fail to add the slightest point to their tally.
Nevertheless, within the Racing camp, there is no question of not taking the game against the Scarlets seriously, nor the encounter with ASM next week. “We must respect the European Cup, respect the game, and respect our jersey!” insists Laurent Labit, the backs coach. Before adding : “Despite appearances, this is a match with a lot at stake. We must use it to consolidate our game, and to continue to progress, so that we can improve our game in the two games to come, against Clermont and Toulouse.”
To take on the Scarlets, the coaches had no hesitation in picking two of our three Welsh internationals, Dan Lydiate and Mike Phillips, in the starting XV. Flanker Dan Lydiate will start in a back row featuring Jacques Cronje and Antoine Battut, while Mike Phillips will not only come up against his first professional club, but also get his first game in the Ciel et Blanc jersey in front of the home crowd at Yves du Manoir.
Another name to note in the starting XV is loose-head prop Julien Brugnaut, back after a long injury break, after tearing a calf muscle in the away game at Llanelli on October 19th. “The Scarlets like to throw the ball around,” he recalls. “In the away game they were able to put us off our game, but we should be able to handle them.”
As for the Scarlets, whose hopes for qualification are just as slim as their opponents’ tonight, it should be remembered that last October they held the Racingmen to to a draw (26-26), barely a week after pulling off a surprise win against the Harlequins (26-33) in Twickenham. “The Scarlets always have a big game in them, so we will have to be very careful,” advises Mike Phillips who knows a thing or two about Llanelli. “To beat the Scarlets this evening it is quite simple : we have to win our duels, win the battle up front, and get quick ball for our backs.”
If nothing else, to show respect for the Scarlets.
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Saturday 26th August