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'I can't wait': Camille Lopez quits Clermont for Bayonne

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Getty Images)

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Former France out-half Camille Lopez has quit Clermont a year early to take up a two-year deal at Bayonne that has the option of a third-year for the 32-year-old who won the last of his 28 Test caps in the World Cup quarter-final loss to Wales in Oita in October 2019. The half-back has been with Clermont since 2014, becoming a Top 14 title winner in 2017, and was contracted to stay there until the summer of 2023. 

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However, Lopez won’t see that deal through to its expiry as the opportunity to switch to the professional club nearest to where he grew up in Cheraute was too much of a pull for him to ignore. Bayonne are currently third in the Pro D2 and chasing promotion back to the Top 14 before their new star out-half joins them.   

Interviewed by Bayonne after his deal was confirmed, Lopez said: “Even though I still had a year contract at Clermont, to come back to my hometown is a family decision. I am really very happy to come home and I hope it will last the longest possible (a two-season contract plus the option of a third).”

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Lopez will now renew the halfback partnership he initially had with France with Maxime Machenaud, who is joining Bayonne from Racing 92. “It is true that for my first selection, in New Zealand in 2013, we were partners. I’m happy to meet him at Bayonne. I first met Maxime in 2009 when I passed by from Mauleon to Bordeaux-Begles. He had gone to Agen at the end of the season.”

What attracted Lopes to Bayonne? “The development of the stadium and the construction of a training centre shows the ambition of the club and its leaders who do everything to ensure that the players are placed in the best conditions. What I heard during the discussions, the exchanges with president Philippe Tayeb, were reassuring and motivating. All these elements have contributed to finalising my decision to join.

“I hope next season there will be a big challenge to take up in Top 14. If it is in Pro D2, it will not be easy. I know this championship from having played there at the beginning of my career. It’s a tough and long competition. Whatever league, it will be exciting in the jersey of a club that has always attracted me. 

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“We must bring this club back to where it deserves to be. Just for the fans. Bayonne supporters are known in France and beyond for their fervour. I know what it is to perform in front of a large audience, who pushes hard behind their team. Clermont and its supporters are a benchmark in the community. I will enjoy it until the end, like last Saturday with the match against Toulouse, and I can’t wait to get to know this with Bayonne.”

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