The even years smile at Racing. Finalist of the European Cup in 2016 (9-21 against Saracens), in 2018 (12-15 against Leinster) and in 2020 (27-31 against Exeter), the Ile-de-France club has never lifted the trophy. and dreams of achieving it this time in 2022. After dismissing Stade Français without too much difficulty in the round of 16 home and away, Laurent Travers’ players will start as favorites against the English from Sale this Sunday (4 p.m.), on their lawn of Paris La Defense Arena.
“It’s a very solid team in terms of its package of forwards, with several South Africans and a lot of world champions, explains the Ile-de-France manager. It is up to us to do what it takes to show that we are present. We may be less sturdy, less tall, but we will have to be smarter. »
Above all, it will be necessary to settle a few details that have appeared recently with the Ciel et Blancs. Despite a series of five ongoing successes, and offensive bonuses snatched each time in the Top 14, Racing went through some worrying air pockets in front of Biarritz at home (40-7), a fortnight ago, or in Pau (41-24) last week, before unfolding at the end of the match.
“If we don’t respond to the fight…”
“It’s rugby, notes Gaël Fickou. It’s rare that everything is perfect, even with the All Blacks. But it is true that this will have to be corrected. We identified him. We will have to better manage our weak times, try to reverse the pressure in these moments, not to collect points. Against very powerful players, therefore probably less enduring, they will have to be made to run. It’s up to us to have the ball because if they don’t have it, they will be less dangerous. But it’s not going to be easy. »
With this in mind, the Ile-de-France staff chose to place Bernard Le Roux and Virimi Vakatawa on the bench, lacking playing time, in order to use them as “impact players”.
Led by England internationals Ben and Tom Curry in the third row, and center Manu Tuilagi, the Sharks have an impressive pack indeed, including world champion Lood de Jager (2.06m; 125kg) or the South Africans Jean-Luc du Preez (2.10m; 122kg), Akker van der Merwe (1.78m; 108kg) and Jono Ross (1.91m: 111kg).
“If we don’t respond to the level of the fight, and we know that it will be tough, because they will offer us a lot of intensity and aggressiveness, we will not be in half, insists Travers. It’s up to us to raise our cursor, we’ve never encountered this kind of package of forwards. By taking advantage of the ideal playing conditions offered by its Paris La Défense Arena and its synthetic turf. A weapon against Sale.
Racing 92 : Spring – Thomas, Fickou, Chavancy (cap.), Imhoff – (o) Russell, (m) Le Garrec – Diallo, Tanga, Lauret – Bresler, Chouzenoux – Gomes Sa, Chat, Kolingar. Coach: Travers.
Sale : L. James – Roebuck, R. Du Preez, M. Tuilagi, Hammersley – (o) MacGinty, (m) De Klerk – T. Curry, D. Du Preez, Ross (cap.) – De Jager, J.-L . Du Preez – Schonert, Van der Merwe, Rodd. Entraîneur : Sanderson.