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Former All Black shines in Siya Kolisi's debut for Racing 92

By Ben Smith
Francis Saili of Racing 92 in action during the Top 14 match between Racing 92 and Stade Rochelais at Paris La Defense Arena on November 26, 2023 in Nanterre, France. (Photo by Christian Liewig - Corbis/Getty Images)

Siya Kolisi’s highly anticipated debut for Racing 92 was the story of the night in Paris but a former All Black has been praised for shutting down French star Jonathan Danty.

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The Springbok captain made his first appearance for Racing 92 and finished a winner as the Parisian club defeated defending European champions La Rochelle 32-10 at the Paris La Defense Arena.

Key to the victory was the performance of former All Black and Blues midfielder Francis Saili, who joined Racing 92 last year from Biarritz.

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In partnership with Gael Fickou the Racing midfield defence was strong, holding France star Jonathan Danty to just 15 metres on five carries for La Rochelle.

Saili provided the assist on Racing’s first try of the night to Juan Imhoff in the third minute with the final pass for the blistering Argentinian winger.

On defence the former Blues centre completed 11 of 14 tackles in a busy performance, while adding turnover.

He was rated as one of the top two performers on the night along with his midfield partner Fickou.

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“The number 12 of Racing 92 won his duel against Jonathan Danty,” wrote Paul Arnould and Loïc Bessière for RugbyRama who added “the New Zealander did the job.”

“At a fairly crazy start to the match, where both teams decided to play a lot, he was decisive by extending his pass to Juan Imhoff who scored the first of Racing’s four tries.”

Forming Racing 92 star Teddy Thomas aided his old club after being red carded for La Rochelle following a coat-hanger tackle after chasing his own kick in the 24th minute.

Racing 92 never gave up the lead as they closed out the win with a man advantage.

Capped England winger Henry Arundell scored another Top 14 try, producing a classy finish to give Racing the bonus point.

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How Queensland Reds can spark Schmidt's Wallaby revolution

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