Rugby. Can France be the leader in Europe once again?

Rugby is a sport that is praised with a vengeance, eccentric or eclectic, for its topicality. There is no shortage of it at the beginning of the year. The youth of XV of France made big promises in the Six-Nations tournament. Women’s XV of France, in an abbreviated version of the same tournament, found her great rival England in the final on 24 April. And, in early May, top 14, the semi-finals of the French Championship, presents three clubs Champions Cup, big European Cup.

Toulouse face Beagles-Bordeaux, Saturday 1is It is possible. The next day, La Rochelle opposed the Irish from Leinster. The May 22 final will have at least one representative from the top 14. It will probably be Franco-French as it has already happened five times. To this assessment, we have to add Montpellier’s presence in the semi-finals European Challenge, the second European Cup, in opposition to English club Bath.

Sporting and financially battered by the pandemic at the end of a second season, the success of Top 14 raises questions about the value of its British and Irish competitors. In sporting terms, will club rugby in France eventually achieve continental leadership? The English (Saracens and Exeter) and Irish (Leinster) have won the last five finals, including four times against a French rival (Racing 92 and Clermont-Ferrand).

make way for hope

Since the Toulon hat-trick (2013, 2014 and 2015), the top 14 have not taken back the trophy. Quadruple European champions Toulouse have been absent from the final since 2010 and their win against Biarritz. The title of French champion 2019 – 2020 is not awarded – and is worn by young talent, such as antoine dupont and romaine nutmacIs he capable of embodying change?

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French rugby now leaves more room for its hopes than in the old foreign glories. They come from the French Under-20 teams that won the World Cup in 2018 and 2019. An explanation could be the Federation’s Will (FFR) imposing players from the Training Course (JIFF) on the match sheet. La Rochelle and Bordeaux-Bagles, appearing for the first time in this stage of the competition, did they inspire the idea of ‚Äč‚Äčrenovation?

with eight English clubs premiership, the eight franchises of the Pro 14 (Ireland, Scotland, Wales), initially many of the top 14, a trio of French survivors attribute their appearance only to the vagaries of the health condition that has punished the workforce (1) . “We know that Covid has affected some teams and we won’t have to blow the trumpet on the day we win. grow up, Toulouse Coach. But it’s still a title and I don’t think, in a few years, we’ll put a little asterisk in it to say it was under Covid. “

The comparison game between British and French models is also relevant to his approach. Economic. In the mid-first decade of the 2000s, clubs were won over by bidding for transfers. The explosion of professionalism, the European Cup formally in 1995 and the following season, changed everything. But today the English Premiership and the French Top 14 are changing.

Premiership: Reducing the salary cap

The first has 12 clubs and one championship which is cited as a reference for compatibility with the national team’s calendar. The pandemic has undermined the already fragile finances of the clubs. result, salary cap, the authorized wage bill limit has been reduced to 7.1 million euros per season and will be reduced to 5.6 in the next fiscal year.

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The subject is not trivial in England. team of Saracens, the triple European champions, were relegated to the second division in June 2020 for breaching this salary limit. To straighten out its premiership, its organizers will consider increasing the number of clubs to 13 or 14 and suspending relegation until 2025. Is there a revolution going on in the United Kingdom?

Top 14: No More Bid

The top 14 are also thinking and turning the page over years of overbidding. The National Rugby League’s new management team, selected for four seasons in March, manages the current financial crisis the clubs and the future of its championship are going through. rene buscatelli, its president campaigned to reduce the size of the top 14. Elected, he is practical.

“I was the president of a club (Toulouse) that was very upset by the availability of internationals, calendars and duplicates. I took a step back. The current formula ultimately has more advantages than disadvantages. Our competitions are lucrative and more and more Allows young players to emerge. For the benefit of the clubs, but for the benefit of the French team, they benefit from more playing time.”

two years from world Cup In France in the fall of 2023, change can wait.

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About the Author: Piers Parker

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