Starting the year by playing the leading roles in the standings, Stade Toulousain knows. But the Haut-Garonnais did not want to change their habits in 2023. Largely at the top of the Top 14 ahead of the French Stadium, Ugo Mola’s men will try to consolidate their place as leader of the French rugby championship, Saturday January 7 at 9:05 p.m., at the Marcel-Deflandre stadium in La Rochelle, against the local team, which completes the podium.
Antoine Dupont and his teammates can go forward calmly before the meeting. For several seasons, Stade Toulousain has been the (red and) black beast of Stade Rochelais, which it has always beaten in their last eight confrontations, including two finals. “But we don’t think about that, nobody talks about series in the locker room. Every game is different and so is the solution.”, warns Toulouse winger Matthis Lebel. The Haut-Garonne prefer to rely on what has worked since the start of the season, especially the rotation system established at the club.
When the coach of the XV of France, Fabien Galthié, innovated by ensuring that the holders were always the same, and by renaming the replacements “finishers”, the Toulousains developed another recipe, just as effective. On the side of Ernest-Wallon – the lair of Stade Toulouse – no player is confined to the sidelines. “I have trouble with the notion of holder, I prefer to speak of collective strength. Everyone can have their place on the pitch.”says coach Ugo Mola.
The composition changes, not the results
Even the stars do not chain meetings. Antoine Dupont, yet the best player in the world in 2021, was thus left to rest for the move of the Stadistes to La Rochelle. As he did for the Blues scrum-half, Ugo Mola also gave internationals Julien Marchand and Anthony Jelonch a week off. So much for the meaning of going on vacation.
On the return side, the traffic is also busy. Romain Ntamack, Dorian Aldegheri, Peato Mauvaka and Matthis Lebel, who had enjoyed a few days off during the holidays, are back for the trip to Charente-Maritime. Without them, Stade Toulousain had not slowed down on Sunday 1er January, by winning at Clermont (13-32), with, as a bonus, the offensive bonus point (reward obtained by scoring three tries more than the opponent) to start the year well.
“We talk a lot about the club’s headliners, but the players we see less are just as important in the groupjudge Matthis Lebel, the Rouge et Noir’s best try scorer this season (five goals). Last year we were a little tight, especially with the injuries, even if the record was not so bad [défaites en demi-finales du Top 14 et de la Coupe d’Europe]. We ended the season on the kneecaps and that played on the results. »
You have 46.89% of this article left to read. The following is for subscribers only.