Top 14: Toulouse and La Rochelle favorites, Montpellier wants to defend its title… The forces present before the resumption of the season

Top 14: Toulouse and La Rochelle favorites, Montpellier wants to defend its title... The forces present before the resumption of the season

The Top 14 is back. The 2022-2023 season of the French rugby championship opens with the match between Racing and Castres, on Saturday, September 3 at 3 p.m. One year after the World Cup in France, this season promises to be as even and exciting as the previous ones. Franceinfo: Sport takes stock of the ambitions of each of the teams.

The favourites: La Rochelle and Toulouse have the fangs, Montpellier put to the test

Apart from the new star proudly sewn on the logo, many things have changed at La Rochelle. The European champion has moved away from historical players (Vito, Retière, Priso, West) and has focused his signing on the Top 14. Highly visible with the Blues in Japan, Yoan Tanga reinforces an already conquering third line. The spinning Teddy Thomas (Racing) and Ulupano”UJ” Seuteni (UBB) will bring his magic behind, while starter Antoine Hastoy (Pau) will have to spend a season. These reinforcements, grafted onto a solid framework, make the Marítimos the natural favorites for the Brennus.

The same goes for Toulouse frustrated by a white season that ended in the semifinals of the Top 14 and the European Cup last year. The recruits Jaminet, Retière, Barassi and the Italian Capuozzo are the jewels of the recruitment. His addition to a largely international squad, led by the world’s best player Antoine Dupont, will be scrutinized, as will the team’s ability to cope with his absences during doubles.

The status of champion obliges, Montpellier appears as a logical favorite to his own succession. We are in the discovery, we don’t really know how it can happen”, recognized the center Arturo Vicente. The MHR lost some historic ones (Paillaugue, Guirado, Ouedraogo) and received targeted reinforcements (Coly in the scrum, Carbonel in the opening, Lam on the side).

Defeated by Montpellier last year in the semi-finals, the UBB is still armed. Christophe Urios’s players want to face the exercise calmly, after a convulsive end of the season internally. Recruitment is important (Miquel, Vili, Falatea, Holmes). However, the departures of many executives (Woki, Lam, Païva, Picamoles, Seuteni) move Bordeaux-Bègles away from the other three favourites.

The other suitors: Castres true to himself, Toulon and Racing revenge

It is a chestnut tree: before each season, Castres has the head of the perfect stranger. The one that is not to talk about, but that he will do his best to play spoilsport, as last season ended in the final. Beyond the retirement of the emblematic Rory Kockott, the CO has not revolutionized its workforce.

The change is clearer in Racing. The Ciel et Blanc innovated by parting ways with many former members (Thomas, Beale, Machenaud, Tanga). Apart from the international Cameron Woki, the arrivals seem more bets than certainties. In such a dense Top 14, the horizon of the residents of Ile-de-France, in alternating current last year, does not look good.

Toulon seems more capable of sneaking into the final. The Mignoni-Azéma tandem knows how to do it, especially since the squad has been reinforced with the arrival of Fijian tightrope walker Waisea. Other confirmed players have joined La Rade (Priso, Sinzelle, Baubigny, West).

Lyon, winners of the Challenge Cup but absent from the later final stages, pursue a similar goal. Now guided by Xavier Garbajosa, the Rodaniens will have to evolve as orphans of their pair of central defenders Ngatai-Barassi. Acclimatization of southern hemisphere recruits will tell more about the reserves of this LOU. Finally, a large number of formations (Pau, Stade Français, Clermont) seem too fair to infiltrate the race for the dams.

The fight to maintain: Rowing seems armed, Perpignan and Brive a little less

Accustomed to yo-yoing between the Top 14 and Pro D2, Bayona appears, at first glance, committed to relegation. Yes, but rowing has offered a weight hinge, with the arrivals of Maxime Machenaud and Camille López (66 tricolor teams and as many years between them). Several experienced players in the elite (Béthune, Buliruarua, Bosch) reinforce an already experienced rise.

A tougher affair for Perpignan, who lost Melvyn Jaminet to Toulouse and their Argentine winger Bautista Delguy (Clermont). Usap has certainly received reinforcements (McIntyre, Laborde, Galletier), but it seems illusory to imagine it above 12th place.

Brive finds himself in a similar situation. Already just last year, the Coujous have lost a significant number of players. Although winning in Corrèze is never easy, the CAB goes a long way.


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