Kicking off the New Year with a bang, Racing Metro faces the difficult challenge of an away game against Oyonnax. An opportunity for the Ciel et Blanc to continue their winning ways, and to reinforce the quality of their team-work so critical in the win against Toulon last Sunday.
Everyone likes to start off the New Year with good resolutions, and at Racing Metro 92 we are no exception. Just as well, because only six days after the resounding win against Toulon (14-3) at Colombes, our Ciel et Blanc have the opportunity to kick on, with the game in Oyonnax this evening (6:30 pm).
But although Oyonnax is currently in 13th position on the points board, this is a game the Racingmen are not taking lightly. Quite the contrary, because on their home ground at Stade Charles-Mathon, the Oyonnaxains deserve the greatest respect. They have beaten Clermont, Castres and Toulon, who all came off second-best, and since the beginning of the season their only home defeat has been the narrow loss to Stade Français (15-16). “Oyonnax is not at its rightful place on the points table, insists Antoine Battut. It is a very capable side, especially when playing at home.”
The only drawback is the weather conditions expected in Oyonnax this evening. Admittedly, no snow, but heavy rain is forecast, and the ball will no doubt be slippery and hard to handle. “I would love to say we are in for a festival of running rugby,” laughs the flanker. “But I have seen the weather forecast and I doubt very much if that will happen.”
Which is why this week at the club HQ in Le Plessis, Battut and his team-mates have taken the build-up to the game very seriously, doing everything they can to maintain the qualities they showed on the pitch against Toulon. Indeed, as Patrice Lagisquet, backs coach of the French XV who came to the club to supervise Marc Andreu, can attest, the levels of intensity and commitment in Thursday’s training session were very close to those witnessed at Yves-du-Manoir on Sunday.
“It’s going to be a battle of the rucks,” confirms Fabrice Metz, the young lock produced by the Racing Academy. “Above all, we must not underestimate Oyonnax.” There is no doubt that the outcome of the match will be decided up front, in the intensity of the physical commitment and aggressiveness of the forward battle. “That’s where we will win or lose,” warns Laurent Labit, our backs coach. “After that, the team which wins the battle up front will be able to try and implement its game plan. But if we don’t front up in all these sectors of the game, it’s difficult to see how we can come away with a win.”
In short, after home wins against Montpellier and Toulon, plus the draw away in Brive, the Ciel et Blanc have regained the confidence and composure that was missing. But they must now put it into effect on the pitch in Oyonnax, against a team which is battling for survival in the TOP 14. “We are going to Oyonnax with great humility and respect,” insists Labit. “To start the New Year, we just have to continue where we left off against Toulon. 2013 is over. But we must absolutely retain the momentum and keep positive.”
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