Despite being deprived of their French, Welsh, and Irish internationals, the Ciel et Blanc today take on the UBB in Bègles. A crucial game where the Franciliens must rise to the challenge of the spirited rugby played by Bordeaux-Bègles. (Credit photo : Julien Poupart // Attitude Rugby)
Might as well get straight to the point. The rendezvous awaiting the Ciel et Blanc in the suburbs of Bègles today is a complicated one. For, with only seven games left in the elimination round of the Top 14, the men from Racing Metro 92 must yet again grab whatever points they can if they are to have a hope of qualifying for the final phase of the championship.
But here’s the thing: the Franciliens must first of all come to terms with the audacious style of rugby favoured by the Bordeaux team. A team which will admittedly be without its head coach Raphaël Ibanez - at Twickenham commenting the England – Ireland game for France 2 - but which since the very start of the season has always tried to run the ball. Counting three more losses than Racing, the Bordelais might be in tenth place, but they still retain an outside chance of qualifying in the Top 6, thanks to their four attacking bonus points, all achieved at home. Not to mention a certain taste for attacking rugby, which has seen them run in a total of 39 tries this season, compared to only 18 for the Ciel et Blanc.
“Bordeaux is a team with a settled game plan. At home, it is one hell of a team, they move the ball a lot, never get rid of it unnecessarily, and play a great style of rugby,” admitted Fabrice Estebanez on Thursday. “It is going to be very complicated for us to go there and win.”
Especially as the side coached by Laurent Travers and Laurent Labit will be suffering from a certain handicap at Stade André-Moga today. In this Six Nations double-whammy weekend, there are no fewer than ten key Ciel et Blanc players missing. Our emblematic captain Dimitri Szarzewski, Wenceslas Lauret and Maxime Machenaud with les Bleus, Dan Lydiate, Jamie Roberts and Mike Phillips with the winning Welsh (27-6) last night in Cardiff, and Irishman Jonny Sexton with the men in green at Twickenham this afternoon. But it doesn’t stop there, because three other names have to be added to this list: Bernard Le Roux and Luc Ducalcon, both injured while picked for France, and our winger Marc Andreu, given a weekend’s rest after a yet another gruelling week of opposition training at Marcoussis.
“We are not here to complain. We have known since the beginning of the season that these international weekends would have to be managed,” noted Laurent Travers in the pre-match press conference. “Today we need to rely on all our resources, all the potential of our squad, and the 23 guys on the team list have our total confidence.”
No question then for the Ciel et Blanc to look for excuses, or to not take this game in Bègles seriously. As Fabrice Estebanez – today making do as reserve fly-half in the absence of the Ireland’s Sexton, and the injured Juan-Martin Hernandez and Jonny Wisniewsky – put it: “We are up for it, nobody is dropping their guard. Time is running out, and it is high time for Racing to pull off a win away from home.”
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Friday 19th August