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Racing-Toulouse, a bare winter before the reunion in spring

Without their internationals, Ile-de-France and Toulouse residents face each other this Sunday in Nanterre. First episode of their duels this season, before the Champions Cup round of 16 in April at the Stadium.

The double blade. After a start to the season weighed down by the World Cup, here is the period of doubles during the Six Nations Tournament. This Sunday’s clash between Racing 92 and Stade Toulousain, in Paris La Défense, will therefore take place without a large part of the French internationals selected this weekend at the CNR in Marcoussis to prepare for the opening match of the Six Nations Tournament. against Ireland. Ugo Mola, the Stade manager, must cope without seven executives (Baille, Mauvaka, Marchand, Aldegheri, Cros, Ramos and Lebel), while the infirmary is already full (Ntamack, Jelonch, Meafou, Delibes). Antoine Dupont, on the other hand, has decided to skip Tournoi to devote himself to “France 7” and will be very present in Nanterre.

The French champion will therefore have to adapt, but he is used to it, having been the number 1 supplier of internationals to the French XV for many years. “It’s a different time from the others, with a different squad. We have to find automatisms between the players who have played little, the young people who are joining the group. Some must show themselves as leaders. This was already the case during the World Cup. recalled Virgile Lacombe, the coach of the Toulouse forwards, who nevertheless recalls that this “new period of doubles will allow players to show themselves and seek places for the end of the season.”

Lancaster, the bane of Toulouse

The end of the season, in fact, will begin at the beginning of April with a round of 16 of the Champions Cup, against… Racing 92. This Sunday’s shock against the Ile-de-France residents will not necessarily serve as a dress rehearsal before the first elimination match of the season, due to the numerous absences on each side. But it will give the first indications and allow you to mark your territory.

Stuart Lancaster will meet Stade Toulousain for the first time with his new team, certainly at the top of the Top 14 but which had some scares in the Champions Cup. When he was on the Leinster staff, the English technician long caused nightmares for the Rouge et Noir, soundly beaten three times in the semi-finals in 2019, 2022 and 2023. Before the last confrontation last spring, Ugo Mola announced: “I’ve learned two lessons in Dublin… I’ve always been told that when you repeat the same mistakes, you’re a bit stupid. Either I will be the idiot in the story with my staff, or we will have understood certain things. Obviously, the lesson had not been learned…

“I want to do in Racing what I did elsewhere: help young players progress”

Just like him, Lancaster, former coach of the XV de la Rose (2012-2015) praised for his training side, will have no other choice than to launch and trust players in the making or usually replacements. “I want to do in Racing what I did elsewhere: help young players progress, he explained to us recently. Here, young players have a perfect environment to develop. Leinster works like that too, that’s why it has been so successful.” The bleeding will be less significant than in Toulouse, with “only” five internationals retained at the CNR (Fickou, Woki, Laclayat, Le Garrec and Gibert).

Last year, the Ciel et Blanc did not exist in San Sebastián, in the semi-final of the Top 14, swept away 41-14. Brutal end to life for Laurent Travers on the Ile-de-France bench, before becoming president of the club. Last season, Toulouse was uncompromising against Gaël Fickou and his teammates, also beaten twice during the regular season. End of the black streak of three defeats in a row this Sunday?

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