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The last meeting between Toulouse and La Rochelle, on April 30 at the Stadium, had again turned in favor of Romain Ntamack’s team (23-16). —
It’s a poster that we would have imagined at the Stade de France in two weeks, like last year. However, this Toulouse – La Rochelle, Saturday in Ernest-Wallon, constitutes a “simple” barrage of Top 14, between two teams which have become accustomed to meeting in the spring: semi-final of the championship in 2019, Cup finals Europe and then the championship in 2021. These three duels turned in favor of the colleagues of Antoine Dupont, who remain in total on six victories in a row against those of Grégory Alldritt.
Repeated meetings, numerous and loyal supporters, internationals in spades and forwards who do not move to declaim Lamartine… All the ingredients seem to be in place to resurrect the ancient “clasico” between Toulouse and Paris, on and off the ground, with sweet words and flashes. Yes, but actually no…
“When we talk about classic or clasico, we are talking about clubs that have been meeting for a hundred years, which have titles, like Real Madrid or FC Barcelona in football, decrypts Jean-Pierre Elissalde, former player and emblematic coach of the Maritimes. , father of Jean-Baptiste, who shone in both jerseys. We will say that it is in germ. The difference in level between the two teams has been reduced. It is no longer about David versus Goliath. »
Two centuries-old clubs, but with very different histories
If the recent winner of the European Cup was born in 1898, nine years before his Toulouse counterpart, it was not until the second half of the last decade that La Rochelle played in the big leagues, where the Reds and Black frolic since birth.
Grégory Lamboley ended his career in 2017-2018 at Marcel-Deflandre, after having known everything on the side of Ernest-Wallon, including the famous duels between Capitole and Capitale. “The clasico – a concept more or less made by Max Guazzini [former president of Stade Français] – it was special because at the time, Stade Toulousain and Stade Français were at the top of the bill, recalls the former 3rd or 2nd international line. Since then, the level has risen so much, with a more homogeneous Top 14… You also have UBB, Montpellier, Castres…”
Consultant for Canal+, Marie-Alice Yahé does not try to oversell the already enticing meeting that she will comment on. “It’s a shock from the top of the table between the former European champion and the current one, between the French champion and the finalist, but not yet a “clasico” of French rugby, describes the former captain of the Bleues . Maybe the history and the results to come will make it a ‘clasico’ but for now it’s still young. There is not really the culture of the derby or the “spade” that can exist between certain clubs. »
Castres and Bègles, the real rivals
400 kilometers and wheelbarrows separate the two cities, five times more than the distance between Toulouse and Castres, the “best enemy” of the Haut-Garonne club since Agen left the top level. On the La Rochelle side, the real rivalry is to be found on the Aquitaine side. “In terms of history, geography, youth matches, our classic, it has always been against Bègles [today the UBB]”, indicates Jean-Pierre Elissalde, who still remembers with tremolos in the voice of “a very committed meeting in 1985, not to go down”.
“When I played in La Rochelle, the match to win was against UBB, confirms Lamboley. Afterwards, given the recent results, perhaps there is a feeling of revenge at Stade Rochelais which does not exist in Toulouse. »
So we wanted to check that with the president of Bagnards, one of the fan clubs of the team of polymuscles Will Skelton and Uini Atonio. “Yes, there is a rivalry, compared to the objectives of the two clubs, indicates Maxime Collin. But we have enormous respect for Stade Toulousain, its history and what it can represent in French rugby. That said, as we showed in the European Cup final, we are not the good little team that finishes second after having played well. And despite our long season and this tough game against Leinster, I don’t feel that the group is tired. »
Drinks and meals between supporters
The 30-year-old will be present at Ernest-Wallon to hope to see his favorite team qualify for the semi-finals, against Castres Olymique, first in the regular phase. In an atmosphere far removed from that of an OM – PSG. “We sent messages to Toulouse supporters to let them know we were coming. If we can have a drink…”
President of Eight, one of the main groups of Toulouse aficionados, Jean-Marc Arnaud has nothing against it, on the contrary. “We are going to have a meal with 200 people and there will be people from Rochelle! Frankly, it’s a simple team, which does not play it. Their supporters make us think of those of Clermont, they have a very good background. There is no rivalry between us. And then, we welcome a real European champion! They worked to achieve their goal and they succeeded. »
The end of the bad La Rochelle series?
For this, the Maritimes therefore crushed Leinster, who had outclassed the Rouge et Noir in the semi-finals, in Dublin… “Toulouse is up and down this season, even if it remains a great team, judge Marie-Alice Yahé. It is perhaps less dominant and confident than last year, while La Rochelle is the opposite. In short, it looks as tight as it is tense at Ernest-Wallon. Maybe the start of a real rivalry?
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