This afternoon at Jean-Bouin, and live on Canal+ (k.o. 2.55PM French time) the Ciel et Blanc take on their Parisian neighbours, Stade Français. A tension filled derby between the two teams from Ile-de-France, and a crunch game whose outcome that will weigh heavily in the race for qualification. (Credit photo : Julien Poupart // Attitude Rugby)
Two teams separated by only two points on the Top 14 table; two great institutions of French rugby both still chasing a place in the top six for the play-offs; two clubs which are closely linked by both players and coaches who have spent their career fighting for the two jerseys…In other words, the stage is set for a high tension derby which awaits the Ciel et Blanc at Stade Jean-Bouin today.
Never, since Racing Metro’s return to the élite in 2009, has the Paris derby against the neighbours from Porte d’Auteuil generated so much interest. With only four rounds left, neither the Ciel et Blanc nor their opponents are guaranteed a place in the play-off phase, not to mention the fact that the personal destinies of several of today’s protagonists adds a certain spice to the occasion.
For the Parisians, their coaches Gonzalo Quesada and Patricio Noriega were last year the coaches of Racing, while players Jérôme Fillol, Olivier Missoup, Laurent Sempéré and assistant coach Jeff Dubois all came to Stade Français from Racing. On the other hand, our captain Dimitri Szarzewski and the Argentinean Juan Martín Hernández both spent many seasons playing for Stade Français.
Still, as Hernández is quick to point out, with its brand new stadium, plus the many changes both amongst the officials and the players, it is no longer the Stade Français as he knew it. “Everything has changed there, it is a completely new team,” observes the Argentinean. “So for me, there is no longer anything special about playing against Stade Français.”
“Forget about who we are playing.” That is the aim of the Ciel et Blanc in the build-up to a match which looks very much like a sudden-death play-off. “We cannot allow ourselves to worry about who we are playing against,” insists Laurent Travers. “We have four matches remaining and the most important thing is to get as many points as possible to get into the top six.”
Accordingly, for Travers, as for Szarezewski and Hernández, the aim is to try and forget about the derby. “Of course there is something special about this game, because it involves the two Parisian teams,” says the Ciel et Blanc coach. “But if there is any passion, we want it to relate to our qualification. The only important thing is to win the game. So that we can continue to work our way up the points table.” Let the game begin!
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Friday 19th August