Brive put more than one Top 14 big gun to shame on their return to the top flight after a one-campaign spell in the Pro D2. Here’s why we can expect Fortress Amedee Domenech to be even stronger this season.

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Key signing

Italian Pietro Ceccarelli is a smart catch from Edinburgh. At 28, he is the oldest of the club’s five new arrivals. A mention, too, for Samoan lock Brandon Nansen, joining after two injury-plagued seasons at Dragons and looking for better times. The new names prove one key thing – it’s evolution, not a revolution that head coach Jeremy Davidson is plotting.

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England forward Courtney Lawes guests on All Access, the RugbyPass interview series hosted by Jim Hamilton

Key departure

Joe Snyman: A long-running injury forced the 33-year-old South African lock to call time on his career in December, a couple of years earlier than he – and, no doubt, the club – would have hoped.

They say

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“Our policy is primarily to trust young people. We want to give them the opportunity, so we haven’t recruited much. Overall, we have continued to rejuvenate the workforce – the rest of the group is maturing. Above all, they are attentive, motivated and enthusiastic.”

– Coach Jeremy Davidson, Rugbyrama

We say

Brive were eleventh in the Top 14, level on points with Bayonne and Castres, and out of Europe when last season came to a pandemic-induced early end. But don’t be fooled – there is plenty to be optimistic about after a solid return to the Top 14 following a season in the Pro D2.

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Without the star names of other sides in the French top flight, Brive bettered Clermont, Toulon, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lyon, Pau, and Stade Francais at Stade Amedee Domenech and, frankly, looked good doing it.

The targeted recruitments of Ceccarelli, Florian Dufour, Valentin Tirefort, Wesley Douglas and Setariki Tuicuvu bring a touch of freshness, but Brive are building carefully, cannily and slowly around a cohort of young players.

Mix of youth and experience

Make no mistake though, despite their self-proclaimed accent on youth, there is plenty of experience in Brive’s ranks. Thomas Laranjeira, at 28, is a natural-born leader – as is captain Said Hireche. He may be 35 now, but he has signed on for one more year of hitting rucks and mauls like a 20-year-old. It will be a bittersweet day in the Correze when the hugely and justifiably popular Hireche finally hangs up his boots – hopefully, to the ringing applause of the fans that he deserves.

Brive don’t have the riches of many of the clubs they face on a weekly basis and after the obligatory post-promotion season of survival, they will be looking for the obligatory second-season consolidation performance.

They aren’t likely to trouble the very top of the table next season and, in spite of their coach’s clear and present ambitions, they wouldn’t expect to. But more wins under their belt and a higher finish – that is the very least Brive deserve.

Arrivals

Pietro Ceccarelli, Florian Dufour, Brandon Nansen, Wesley Douglas, Valentin Tirefort, Setariki Tuicuvu

Departures

James Johnston, Karlen Asieshvili, Francois da Ros, Joe Snyman, Dan Malafosse, Richard Fourcade, Jan Uys, Alex Dunbar, Franck Romanet, Guillaume Namy, Rory Scholes

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