Stade Rochelais, attractive this season (second in the Championship and final in the European Cup), is nowhere near the Top 14 semi-final against Racing 92 (this Friday, 8:45 p.m., at Lille) in the best conditions. The Maritimes will be deprived of the injured international prostitute Pierre Bourget, and their middle husband Botia (suspended) – Domeiro (injured). He was not perfect before the shock against Racing 92, in a good dynamic after their victory in the play-off at Francis Stade (38-21).
La Rochelle qualified directly for the semi-finals and did not play last week. “The weekend was good for everyone,” said Juno Gibbs, La Rochelle manager. “We’ve taken advantage of this week to recover, gain energy, and we’re doing well on a physical level,” says the New Zealander.
Faced with the upcoming race, with an almost complete workforce, La Rochelle wants to be positive. “Injury is like that, it’s rugby. We have a group, over 23 years old, ready to give the maximum. It’s a highlight of our season. We didn’t waste our time worrying about players missing, we invested in the players present to prepare for this big match against Racing, Juno Gibbs explains.
“We are no longer satisfied with being in the semi-finals”
Captain and second rower Romain Sazi, who knew everything at La Rochelle, from Pro D2 to the top 14 semi-finals (2017 and 2019) and the European Cup final (2021), wants to see more. “The club has grown. On a personal and collective level, we can no longer feel satisfied with qualifying for the semi-finals. We want to win and be champions. We have progressed, and we are gaining momentum”, he assures us.
Faced with racing, and particularly his impressive three-quarter streak with a pair of XV centers from France Vico-Vakatawa, La Rochelle considers himself armed enough. “We focus on ourselves,” says third grader Kevin Gordon. They have an amazing three quarters, France team positions. But we also have a lot of quality behind us. Even if we’re a little average against Claremont (Editor’s note: 25-20 defeat on June 5), I have complete confidence. “With the contribution of Brice Dulin, previous 92nd race (2014-2020), we know where we’re going,” Gordon adds.
Fencing will not be without salt despite injuries. “The European experience has given us confidence,” Juno Gibbs concludes. Where Racing 92 failed in the Champions Cup quarter-final against Bordeaux (24-21), the habit of managing close matches can really matter. I answer Friday evening.