Top 14 2020/21 club-by-club season preview: Lyon
Lyon are taking the experienced route to their Top 14 and Champions Cup challenges.
Mathieu Bastareaud: There are some big changes in store at ambitious Lyon – and the return, after a Covid-19 hit American adventure, of Bastareaud is arguably the biggest of them. You will have decide for yourself whether to consider the recruits as older or experienced.
Julien Puricelli: You could pick any one of Carl Fearns and Liam Gill, Jean-Marcellin Buttin and Alexis Palison. But the emblematic Puricelli, whose retirement has long been expected to be fair, will be the biggest miss on the pitch in the heat of a match. He’s still very much involved as a coach, however.
“It is absolutely not taboo or shameful to say that we want to compete for the title. As we know well, a dozen clubs can do it. Or even 13. The competition will be fierce.”
– President Yann Roubert (Les Echos)
It’s safe to say that Lyon’s pre-season did not go entirely according to plan. As other Top 14 clubs negotiated pay cuts with their players, Lyon reportedly struggled to find a consensus. There was even far-fetched talk about the president and manager, Pierre Mignoni, walking.
To make matters worse, three players tested positive for Covid-19 three weeks before the first scheduled pre-season friendly. One was a false positive, but two players went into quarantine for two weeks, while health measures for the rest of the squad meant training plans were immediately restricted.
There are worse times to have such necessary restrictions imposed – just ask Stade Francais. Despite the sudden halt in training plans, Lyon have had time to adjust.
The two players in quarantine were – pending a requisite final batch of tests – due to return to training the week of August 17, ahead of Lyon’s opening pre-season friendly against Racing 92 – their opponents on the opening weekend of the Top 14 campaign.
Lyon are looking beyond domestic borders. Two disappointing Champions Cup campaigns, in which they have won just once, is chafing. Lyon are better than that and Mignoni will be determined to prove that.
Recruitment has been interesting, too. There’s no doubt Lyon, once perennial yo-yoers between the Top 14 and Pro D2, have the French championship – a title they have not won since 1933 – in their sights.
There may be something distinctly short-term about some of Lyon’s latest recruits. Bastareaud (31), Remy Grosso (31) and Alex Tulou (33) are all careering to retirement. But look closer – five academy signings are 20 or under. The youngest is 16. The captain, Baptiste Couilloud, is 23. This is a side that starts a dynasty.
"Your Fodens and all these other players…They kind of disappear into the background whereas this guy absolutely does not.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 2, 2020
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