Select Edition

Northern Northern
Southern Southern
Global Global
New Zealand New Zealand
France France

FEATURE Bordeaux take Toulouse route with homegrown stars set to light up final

Bordeaux take Toulouse route with homegrown stars set to light up final
3 weeks ago

On paper it would seem that Friday’s Top 14 final will be a lop-sided contest. Toulouse and their 22 Boucliers de Brennus (not to mention six Champions Cup titles) against Bordeaux. They’ve never won anything. In fairness to Union Bordeaux-Begles, to give them their full name, they’ve only been in existence since 2006 when Stade Bordeaux merged with Begles-Bordeaux.

In that time Bordeaux have never even reached the Top 14 final. They might have in the 2019-2020 season; they were leading the table by eight points in March but then Covid struck and the Top 14 was abandoned.

What’s changed this season is the arrival as head coach of Yannick Bru. The former Toulouse hooker cut his coaching teeth at that club before spending five years with the French squad. A spell at Bayonne followed before Bru spent a year in Durban with the Sharks squad. His time in South Africa opened his eyes.

Yannick Bru
Yannick Bru spent nine years as a player at Toulouse and five years as forwards coach (Photo Seb Daly/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

“We’re all the product of all the experiences we’ve had, whatever our profession,” he said on returning. “For me, it was an important experience, which impressed me on the way they work on certain technical phases.”

Bru realised that he needed coaches well versed in French game but augmented by outsiders with a fresh perspective. “The idea was to create a complementary staff of people with deep roots in French rugby…and those with a different outlook,” he explained to L’Equipe at the start of this season.

Among the latter is Bordeaux’s attack coach Noel McNamara, the Irishman who describes himself as “a coach by accident”.  A former maths teacher, McNamara moved full-time into coaching first with the Irish Rugby Union, then Leinster and it was at the Sharks where he met Bru.

Toulouse kick less than any other side in the Top 14; Bordeaux the most. Toulouse like to go through the phases; Bordeaux scored 46% of their tries this season in a single play.

McNamara’s influence on Bordeaux has been immediate. They have scored 80 tries in the Top 14 this season, more than any other club, except one: Toulouse, who dotted down 103 times.

They score their tries with contrasting strategies. Toulouse kick less than any other side in the Top 14; Bordeaux the most. Toulouse like to go through the phases; Bordeaux scored 46% of their tries this season in a single play. What they do have in common, however, is a lethal counter-attack.

That’s one of the reasons Friday’s final in Marseille is an enticing prospect. Another is some of the homegrown talent on show. Between them, Toulouse (nine) and Bordeaux (six) supplied 15 players to the French Six Nations squad this season and in Antoine Dupont, Damian Penaud, Romain Ntamack and Louis Bielle-Biarrey, they have some of the most exciting talent in the game.

Damian Penaud
Damian Penaud has scored 18 tries this season for Bordeaux, including one when they beat Toulouse 31-28 in March (Photo Lionel Hahn/Getty Images)

Bordeaux’s president since 2007 has been Laurent Marti, who played for Toulouse’s junior side in his youth. He’s used Toulouse as a template economically and in terms of player development.

For the last 10 seasons Bordeaux have boasted the biggest average gate in the Top 14 – 27,821 fans per match last season. That is way ahead of Toulouse, in second place, with an average of 20,626 fans for each game. Lyon were third with 17,710.  Only Toulouse, Bordeaux and La Rochelle finished the season in the black.

This has been Bielle-Biarrey’s breakthrough season.  A bolter in the France World Cup squad last autumn, the 21-year-old has now established himself in Galthie’s starting-line-up.

Bordeaux has also copied Toulouse in establishing a strong pathway between the youth teams and the senior squad; among the current stars who have progressed this way are French internationals Matthieu Jalibert and Nicolas Depoortere. They’ve also developed that crucial knack of recruiting wisely and not rashly. Players such as scrum-half Maxime Lucu, wing Bielle-Biarrey and, last summer, France star Penaud, who has scored 18 tries in 19 matches this season.

This has been Bielle-Biarrey’s breakthrough season.  A bolter in the France World Cup squad last autumn, the 21-year-old has now established himself in Galthie’s starting-line-up. He and the rest of the Bordeaux and Toulouse squads were excluded from Galthie’s 42-man party that flew out this week to South America.

Nicolas Depoortere
Emerging Bordeaux centre Nicolas Depoortere , 21, has already been capped by France (Photo Romain Perrocheau/ AFP via Getty Images)

Les Bleus play two Tests against Argentina on 6 and 13 July, and sandwiched between those matches is a match against Uruguay on 10 July. Galthie has taken an inexperienced squad with only a handful of seasoned internationals, among them Toulon scrum-half Baptiste Serin, Montpellier wing Arthur Vincent and Toulon full-back Melvyn Jaminet.

Mostly, it is a combination of callow youngsters who have caught the eye at France U20 level, and older players who, in the words of Galthie, “have fallen down the pecking order due to injuries”.

These include Lyon prop Demba Bamba, as well as Judicaël Cancoriet, the former Clermont flanker, who won four caps in 2017, and is enjoying a second wind after moving to La Rochelle last summer.

I just want to say to them: ‘Be happy!’ A tour is a beautiful thing.

“It’s up to us to create consistency between these men,” said Galthie. “I just want to say to them: ‘Be happy!’ A tour is a beautiful thing.”

The tour takes place against a backdrop of intense negotiations between Galthie and the Top 14 clubs about central contracts. Dubbed ‘Project Galthie’, the head coach wants 20 players to be contracted to the French Federation in order to better manage their game time over the season.

According to Midi Olympique the clubs are “annoyed” at the idea that their bums-on-seats names might be seen less in the Top 14 in the coming seasons. One club official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to Midi, expressed his anger that Galthie had gone public with his plans. “He’s got a knife to our throats,” he said. “It’s blackmail.”

Fabien Galthie
Galthie has reportedly annoyed the Top 14 clubs by seeking more control over their top players (Photo Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Asked about the contracts this week, Galthie replied: “The French team must exist; it must take the best players in French rugby in the best possible condition…I’m making proposals to the clubs and the Ligue Nationale de Rugby [the Top 14’s governing body]. If we want to develop a generation over eight years, we need to develop and organise a calendar that allows this to happen.”

That’s one for the suits to sort out. In the meantime a long season reaches its climax on Friday in Marseille with two teams who, if they live up to their billing, will ensure the season ends in style.

USER NOTICE:

As of today you will need to reset your password to log into RugbyPass to continue commenting on articles.

Please click the ‘Login’ button below to be redirected and start the account validation and password reset process.

Thank you,

Comments

1 Comment
G
Guglielmo 26 days ago

Che vinca il migliore :) Forza Capuozzo 💔

Join free and tell us what you really think!

Sign up for free
Search