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La Rochelle to the challenge of the “magic” players of Racing 92

Wide winners of Sale in the quarter-finals, the Racingmen enjoy a firepower noted by the Rochelais.

«magic», «threatening“… The players of La Rochelle fear as much as they admire their opponents from Racing 92: to reach their second straight final in the European Cup, they intend to oppose them Sunday in Lens a huge physical challenge. During the Ile-de-France quarter-final against Sale (41-22), we only saw them: Teddy Thomas, author of a high-class try after flirting with the sideline, Finn Russell, lucky on a rebound following a kick to himself, Juan Imhoff, who dived into the in-goal after a crazy run, and Max Spring, at the conclusion of a superb relay between Virimi Vakatawa and Ibrahim Diallo.

In the European Cup this season, Racing 92 have scored six tries from counter-attacks, more than any other team, or 35% of their tries in this 2021/2022 campaign. “Racing is huge, they are very threatening: Teddy Thomas, Finn Russell, Max Spring… It’s incredible to watch them play», Underlines, admiringly, the New Zealand third line from La Rochelle, Victor Vito. For South African Maritimes winger Raymond Rhule, “if you don’t know how to deal with them, if the ball does not fall on the right side, you take 40 points».

Arguments

«Teddy Thomas’ essay is a crazy thing, it’s the weekend essay for me!“, he underlines. “They are very dangerous in attack, with players capable of starting from nothing to score tries“, abounds the South African third line of the club at the Caravelle, Wiaan Liebenberg, who also admits to being”fanfrom his counterpart Wenceslas Lauret.

Teddy Thomas will be placed under surveillance by the Rochelais. JB Autissier / PANORAMIC

For Vito, the danger does not only come from three-quarters of Racing: “They also have a good hinge that manages to handle rucks well, they have scrapers everywhere…“And in the scrum, the Racingmen are … 100% successful (22 won, more than any other team in the competition).

Faced with all this, the Maritimes have arguments, in particular those of a very powerful and experienced pack: Pierre Bourgarit (105 kg, 5 sel.), Uini Atonio (145 kg, 42 sel.), Dany Priso (110 kg, 15 sel.), Gregory Alldritt (115 kg, 29 sel.), Victor Vito (112 kg, 33 sel.)… “Every time we play against Racing, the match is very physical“Rightly believes Vito, who remembers having finished all his confrontations against the Ile-de-France club”cardio death».

“Like a final”

«We watched their rucks a lot because they put a lot of pressure in this sector, we put our plan in place so that our balls are clean on Sunday», explains Liebenberg. On this side, the Maritimes have nothing to be ashamed of: they are over 97% of rucks won, the highest ratio in the competition.

To the Rochelais therefore of “take this match as a final” and of “stay focused“throughout the match:”if we manage to hold them well, we can set up our gameRhule says. Because it would be afailure if we didn’t reach this final: we want to win, it’s not just empty words“says Vito, who will retire in a few weeks.

This semi-final could indeed be for several Rochelais their last match in the European Cup, given the number of departures at the end of the season. However, within the team,there is a lot of respect between us, so we want to do everything for those who leave and they want to do everything for the club“says Liebenberg, another future retiree. Before adding:we want to end the season well, that something special happens because our group is very special».

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