Top 14: Racing president Lorenzetti gets shirty; Hines snubs Perpignan for the Lions
29 April 2009
Getting shirty: Jacky Lorenzetti has attacked
the overt commercialism of Stade Francais
Photo: Michael Paler
Just days after securing promotion to Top 14 the needle has already begun, with Racing Metro 92 president Jacky Lorenzetti taking a sideswipe at his Stade Francais counterpart Max Guazzani.
"He considers the [Stade Francais] shirt as a kind of tool for merchandising. We believe it is the identity of the club," said Lorenzetti. "Do not touch the shirt - it displays the club's colours," he added.
Lorenzetti also confirmed that Racing would continue to play their home games at Colombes stadium next season - the former home of the national team before the Parcs des Princes - but that it would be extended to hold 14,000 spectators.
In the meantime, plans continue for the building of an all-new 30,000 stadium which he hopes will be completed in either 2012 or 2013.
The outspoken Lorenzetti also wasted no time laying in to Pierre Yves Revol, the president of the Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR).
In particular he is unhappy about the recently agreed salary cap, due to be phased in over the next couple of seasons.
"This is a failure in England. The real gauge is that wages should not exceed 55% of the club's overall budget," he argued. Lorenzetti further said that the current television contract for Top 14 (?29.5 pa) should be "balanced" with that of French football (?668 pa).
Stade Toulousain president René Bouscatel, meanwhile, has indicated that the defending Top 14 champions could play more of their home matches at the Stade Municipal next season.
Stade have sold out 11 of their 13 matches held at their usual home ground of Stade Ernest Wallon this season - capacity 18,700 - and Bouscatel said he was now considering switching more matches to the larger 35,000 capacity Stade Municipal.
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Perpignan's Nathan Hines, has incurred the wrath of the club's supporters after snubbing the Catalans in preference for joining up with the British an Irish Lions.
The Lions depart for their South African tour before the end of season Top 14 play-off semi-finals, leaving Hines to make a tricky decision as the Catalans seek to end a 54-year wait for their sixth Championship.
"I have a torn heart but what can I do? If I am not in London on May 18 I will not be selected by the Lions," said the Scottish lock.
"Last year I was a substitute for Perpignan in the play-off semi-final. Imagine if I were to refuse the Lions and the same thing happened to me? No, that isn't possible. Representing the Lions is the crème de la crème, the squad of squads, the best players from four countries. It is difficult to explain, it is something all British players want to experience," he said.
"Some fans don't understand the importance of the Lions for a guy like me, but they want Perpignan to have the best chance of winning the title. They said to me 'Why are you going? You have a choice'. Others have said to me they were disappointed but have wished me good luck anyway," added Hines.
Meanwhile, club colleague Dan Carter has been urged to take his time as he recovers from the ruptured Achilles which terminated his season back in January.
"The last thing we want to do is push him because that would be the end of it," said All Blacks coach Graham Henry.
"He will play club and representative rugby before international play. There is no point in trying to push him. In his position the stop, start an acceleration off the nark is critical," added Henry.
The New Zealand coach described Carter as being in "a hell of a good space" and described himself as content with the players' ongoing convalescence in France.
Elsewhere, injuries have curtailed the season for Clermont Auvergne's Marius Joubert and Montauban's Miguel Avramovic.
Joubert, 29, is programmed in for surgery on May 4 after picking up a persistent groin injury against Bayonne on January 31. The Springbok centre will now have to sit out the play-offs and Clermont's attempts to end their Championship hoodoo after nine out of nine final failures.
Argentine centre Avramovic, 27, sprained his left knee against Brive at the weekend and will now be unavailable for the final two games - away to Perpignan and Biarritz.
Dax's Top 14 future may remain uncertain but it received a welcome boost this week with confirmation that two of its players - Yves Pedrosa and William Bonet - have signed contract extensions. Former Brive player Pedrosa has signed a one-year deal, while ex-Bourgoin player Bonet has extended until 2012.
Scottish international winger Sean Lamont may not be following brother Rory across the Channel after all, according the BBC. Sean had been heavily linked with a proposed move to Brive, but that deal has now apparently fallen through.
Jim Mallinder, Lamont's club boss at Northampton Saints, remains unsure where the 28-year-old will be plying his trade next season. "We'll just have to wait and see," he said.
Bourgoin captain Julien Frier is confident his side can beat Worcester Warriors in Saturday's European Challenge Cup semi-final after pulling off a shock victory away to London Irish in the previous round.
"The result was a bit unexpected," he admitted of the London Irish win, but said that victory had now given them great confidence to win the tournament - and qualify for the Heineken Cup.
"We managed to pull off a great achievement - and an upset from our opponents' point of view - while winning away from home was also a huge plus that gave us a real boost. I suppose you could say that we needed that considering the somewhat hectic situation our club was in earlier in the season," said Frier.
The 34-year-old flanker was part of the Bourgoin team which won the inaugural ECC 12 years ago and is hoping for a repeat performance this season. Their Top 14 survival remains undecided after a "complicated season", but a surprise defensive bonus point gained during last weekend's narrow 13-6 defeat at Stade Toulousain has taken a step nearer safety.
"Now that the game against Toulouse is behind us we are fully in 'European mode' - and we even rested a lot of players to allow our men to be fresh and ready for the European Challenge Cup semi-final," he admitted.
France internationals Morgan Parra and Yann David were among a host of rested players, and Frier believes the combination of that and home advantage will give them the edge on Saturday.
Bourgoin beat Worcester 29-14 at Stade Pierre Rajon back in December - during the pool matches - but lost 27-6 at Sixways the following weekend.
"The fact that we have already beaten them at home is no guarantee that history will repeat itself - it is a knockout game and it is totally different to a pool game," warned Frier. "However, knowing their players and their style will help us prepare and analyse their game - but in now way will we take anything for granted."
Frier is hoping that the omens are on Bourgoin's side as they beat London Irish en route to their 1997 EEC triumph. And if they reach the final this year he promised to savour the moment.
"Back in 1997, I was much younger and came on from the replacements bench, so I didn't quite appreciate the achievement of being in a final and experience the true joy of such a victory. But now that is something that would mean a lot to me, to the club and to our fans. We have such a great atmosphere at Pierre Rajon and the fans are awesome, even though our stadium has a fairly small capacity of just over 8,000," he said.
Bourgoin were given a boost this week when club president René Flamand said its parlous financial situation was now under control, but ProD2 outfit Bourg-en-Bresse are not so optimistic.
"We are on the verge of explosion," warned president Philippe Duc. "The estimates to June 30 show a deficit of ?240,000," he said. The DNACG has been informed and "documentation" sent said Duc, adding: "There is a real emergency".
Bourg, who face relegation to Federale 1, are the second ProD2 club to be hit by financial crisis this season. The future of FC Auch Gers still remains uncertain despite the club raising ?100,000 during a weekend 'rugbython'.