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Relegation-threatened Oyonnax raid Top 14 with four signings

By Josh Raisey
Lyon's French prop Paulo Tafili attempts to break away during the French Top 14 rugby union match between Union Bordeaux Begles (UBB) and Lyon Olympique Universitaire Rugby (LOU Rugby) at the Chaban-Delmas Stadium in Bordeaux, south-western France, on December 22, 2023. (Photo by ROMAIN PERROCHEAU / AFP) (Photo by ROMAIN PERROCHEAU/AFP via Getty Images)

Oyonnax may be staring down the barrel of automatic relegation from the Top 14 at the end of the season, but that has not stopped them from building for life in Pro D2 next season.

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The club announced the signing of four players ahead of next season, all from the Top 14.

Lyon tighthead Paulo Tafili Bordeaux-Begles duo of back row Antoine Miquel and fly-half Zack Holmes, and Toulon centre Maëlan Rabut have all signed deals with Oyonnax ahead of next season, despite the prospect of playing in France’s second division.

All have signed two-year deals at the Stade Charles-Mathon, barring Miquel who has signed a four-year deal.

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Springbok hooker Bongi Mbonambi on the next generation of stars at the Sharks

Springbok hooker Bongi Mbonambi believes the Sharks are proving that they can build depth with the youngsters that they have in the system.

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Springbok hooker Bongi Mbonambi on the next generation of stars at the Sharks

Springbok hooker Bongi Mbonambi believes the Sharks are proving that they can build depth with the youngsters that they have in the system.

This quadruple swoop comes days after Oyonnax made the immediate signing of Georgia scrum-half Vasil Lobzhanidze from Toulon. The 70-cap international joined as a medical joker on another two-year deal.

Oyonnax currently sit at the bottom of the Top 14 table, 12 points adrift of Montpellier in 13th with only six matches remaining in the season.

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Top 14
Oyonnax
13 - 43
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Racing 92
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Leapfrogging Montpellier would still not necessarily prevent the team relegation, as they would still be forced into a play-off with the runner-up of the Pro D2. Only 12th place would guarantee their safety, which is a sizeable 16 points away for them ahead of hosting third-place Racing 92 in their next match.

While they appear to be firm favourites to be relegated as it stands, they are making sure they are well equipped to return to France’s top table as soon as possible.

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Last season’s relegated side, Brive, have shown this season that it is not a simple task rebounding back into the Top 14, and currently languish in ninth place in the league, while Biarritz, relegated the season before, are currently 13th.

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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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