Top 14 2020/21 club-by-club season preview: Bordeaux
It’s a stretch to say Bordeaux would probably have won the 2019/20 Top 14 season – there were, after all, nine rounds of the regular season and the play-offs to go. It’s not a stretch to say they were, week-in week-out, the best side in the Top 14. There’s no reason not to expect more of the same in this campaign.
Joseph Dweba. All respect to the outlandishly talented Ben Lam, but the try-loving hooker could turn out to be the Top 14 signing of the season – and he opened his account as part of a pushover collective a minute from the final whistle of the opening match of preseason. An honourable mention is deserved, though, for Lam. Bordeaux, already scary, are going to be terrifying.
Semi Radradra. No side – not even one that has recruited and retained as well as Bordeaux – could escape losing Radradra unscathed. Frankly if he’d opted to stay at Chaban-Delmas rather than head to Bristol it would be best to give Bordeaux next season’s Top 14 title and pre-qualify them for the Champions Cup quarters.
“If I don’t use them, it’s a skill issue. When I went to Bordeaux, I saw the profile of the team, what the players are capable of doing. With Jalibert or Botica, who are very offensive, if I do not get them to attack, I am the king of idiots” (Head coach Christophe Urios, francetvsport)
It was one of the great mysteries of the Top 14 – how a side as full of individual talent as Bordeaux could not even finish in the play-off places, let alone challenge for the title. Under Raphael Ibanez, Jacques Brunel and Rory Teague – and then under the interim charge of Joe Worsley – they were a side that flattered to deceive.
The answer, it turned out, was simple. There was no team culture, no identity to speak of. That has been Christophe Urios’s great coaching trick. Identify and latch on to a culture and build a team spirit. He did it at Oyonnax. He did it at Castres. And he’s doing it at Bordeaux.
Bordeaux cultural creator
Only at Bordeaux, he first had to create a culture because, bizarrely, there was none. The one he’s created is based around good living, family and enjoyment. And that’s what drives Bordeaux’s ambitious, attacking, joyous rugby now.
Interestingly, the style he developed at Bordeaux is very different from the workmanlike, no-frills ones he made a virtue at Castres and Oyonnax. That worked at both clubs – players and their fans bought into the work ethic, team first thing.
It would have been easy for him to take that and work it into the Bordeaux system. That he didn’t – that he saw the team he had and adopted his planning to their strengths – is testament to him as a coach. There is no such thing Urios-ball.
At Bordeaux, he has the tools for all-out attacking play. That’s what they did in his first season, to great effect. Expect more of the same wave-after-wave attack-and-counter this season. And, unlike Toulouse, Racing 92 or Montpellier, they won’t lose as many players to the congested international calendar. This season could be Bordeaux’s.
Ben Tameifuna; Joseph Dweba; Maxime Lamothe; Guido Petti; Pablo Uberti; Ben Lam; Nathanael Hulleu
Peni Ravai; Leonardo Ghiraldini; Adrien Pelissie; Florian Dufour; Masalosalo Tutaia; Lucas Meret; Semi Radradra; Blair Connor; Nicolas Plazy
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