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La Rochelle name relatively modest 900kg pack for Bristol Bears

By Ian Cameron

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La Rochelle have selected against type with a relatively modest 900kg pack for their showdown with Bristol Bears tomorrow.

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While 900kg is by no means a light pack weight by professional rugby norms, by the standards of la Rochelle it is significantly undersized.

Apart from the giant 152kg frame of tighthead Uini Atonio, the French side have chosen to reduce their pack weight against Pat Lam’s Bears. There’s no room for 134kg Jone Quvo, the 125kg Lopeti Tomani or the 130kg heft of Vincent Pelo.

The sides scrum remains formidable. La Rochelle were the only side to register a 100 percent record at scrum time in the pool stage, winning 36/36 on their own put-in.

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The average weight of a forward in Sunday’s selection is 114kg; with Dany Priso weighing 110kg, Jean-Charles Orioli 92kg, the aforementioned Atonio at 152kg, Romain Sazy 103kg, Mathieu Tanguy 110kg, Wiaan Liebenberg 106kg, Grégory Alldritt 115kg and Victor Vito (captain) 112kg.

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If you look at La Rochelle’s 2018/19 squad as a whole, it is one that favours size in the forwards and small, rapid backs. The forwards weigh in at a whopping 117.9kg or 18 stone 8Ibs a man and boast a height of 190.5cm or 6’3″ even.

In stark contrast, the backs are positively minuscule at just 86.9kg or 13 stone 10 Ibs; and 179cm or 5’10.5″ in height, making them most likely the smallest back division in Europe.

Furthermore, that makes their average forward 4.5 inches taller and a staggering 31kg heavier than their backs – a smidge under 5 stone heavier on average per man.

What’s also remarkable is just how few players approximate the average player weight – just 4 players out of 35 are within three kilos either side of 104.6kg, with the majority of players are clustered at the further reaches of the size differential.

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This will be the seventh meeting between La Rochelle and Bristol Bears. They met in the pool stage this season with both teams picking up away wins.

This is the third time La Rochelle have reached the quarter-finals, losing at home to Clermont in 2011 and winning an away match against Edinburgh in 2017.

Bristol have reached the knockout stage for the fourth time and the first time in over 10 years, losing to Bath in 2007 and Sale in 2002, but beating Biarritz in 1999/2000.

Bristol have won their last two away games in the Challenge Cup (without conceding a try) and will be looking to record three consecutive victories on the road for the first time.

The Bears have won their last three away games against TOP 14 opposition in the Challenge Cup, winning all three by double digit margins.

Bristol averaged more carries (151) and breaks (19) per game than any other side in the pool stage this season, however, they did have the lowest goalkicking success rate of any side (60%).

Bristol’s Tom Pincus (476) was the leading metre-maker in the pool stage in addition to scoring 6 tries.

Callum Sheedy of Bristol scored 55 points in the pool stage with only Zebre’s Carlo Canna (59) scoring more. Sheedy also contributed a competition-high eight try assists.

Only Clermont’s Apisai Naqalevu (27) beat more defenders than La Rochelle’s Romaric Camou (25) during the pool stage.

1. Dany Priso, 2. Jean-Charles Orioli, 3. Uini Atonio, 4. Romain Sazy, 5. Mathieu Tanguy, 6. Wiaan Liebenberg, 7. Grégory Alldritt, 8. Victor Vito (cap), 9. Jean-Victor Goillot, 10. Ihaia West, 11. Marc Andreu, 12. Pierre Aguillon, 13. Geoffrey Doumayrou, 14. Eliott Roudil, 15. Vincent Rattez

Le banc : 16. Pierre Bourgarit, 17. Léo Aouf, 18. Arthur Joly, 19. Rémi Leroux, 20. Zeno Kieft, 21. Thomas Berjon, 22. Jérémy Sinzelle, 23. Levani Botia

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La Rochelle name relatively modest 900kg pack for Bristol Bears

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