French rugby officials are poised to strengthen their professional club structure by creating a new National Championship to bridge the gap between Pro D2 and Federale 1 level so that clubs coming into the second tier league will be far better equipped to make the transition. 

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Currently, there are 48 clubs split between four pools who compete in Federale 1, a vast mixture of clubs with ambitions and money to progress to a higher level and those who are guarded in the limited finances they are willing to spend.  

It has led a team hotch-potch situation that Ligue Nationale de Rugby are now looking to address. In a statement issued on Tuesday, officials said: “The management committee took stock of the creation by the FFR of an intermediate federal competition between the Pro D2 and the Federal 1, allowing the clubs to prepare on a sporting and structural level for an accession within the professional sector.” 

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France defence coach Shaun Edwards guests on The Rugby Pod, the chart-topping show fronted by Andy Goode and Jim Hamilton

A steering committee will now work with LNR officials to iron out the feasibility of a competition that Freddie Michalak, the ex-France out-half, wants to see quickly happen. Prior to a meeting between LNR and the FFR, he issued an open letter on Twitter in an attempt to give officials the hurry up and get the new league set-up.

“It seems logical that the LNR and the FFR financially support this new intermediate division… to deny the amateur world is to deny its origins, its DNA, its famous ‘values’ of rugby. Make way for union, please,” tweeted Michalak, the France No10 maverick whose playing career wound down at Lyon in recent years.   

Millions of euro is spent annually at Federale level due to the vast sweep of clubs involved. Former Bath academy and English Championship player Ben Mercer recently published a book detailing his colourful experiences on the Federale circuit in France with Rouen, who are now preparing for their second season in Pro D2 under Richard Hill, the ex-England scrum-half.

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“I was really lucky to go to France,” he said in a recent RugbyPass interview. “I always wanted to learn a language and get stuck in, and we’d such a diverse squad, guys from Georgia, Romania and wherever else, guys you don’t meet going about your day to day in your English teams. 

“Just having that diverse experience, seeing an amazing country and getting to travel around and get paid, there are no two ways about it – you can use rugby to go and do things you wouldn’t get to do otherwise and I’m really pleased I got the opportunity.”

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