The Marcel-Deflandre stadium is no longer accustomed to quickly turning off the lights after the match. But also to see the refreshments so sparsely filled and the faces crestfallen. However, this is what happened at Stade Rochelais last Sunday against Castres (24-27) for the resumption of the Top 14 after a long World Cup period. Undisciplined and dominated in the scrum, Brice Dulin's men lost to a more realistic Castres. And find themselves 11th, eight points behind the first, Pau, and six points behind the red lantern, Perpignan. No worries after only four days, of course, but the desire to be revengeful against the promoted Oyonnax from this Saturday (3 p.m.).
At home, Stade Rochelais – deprived of French international Grégory Alldritt for a few months – dropped points along the way. However, the first period against Castres was good. “It’s hard, it’s annoying. We prepared ourselves, we put all the necessary ingredients in the first half, while making a few mistakes. But in the second half, we tackle less low, we lose our scrum. We are capable of doing much better, everyone knows that,” explained second-row Rémi Picquette, frustrated, in a post-match press conference.
If Tawera Kerr-Barlow was keen to congratulate the Castres, Ronan O'Gara and his deputies nevertheless gave a muscular speech. “I'll let you imagine what they said to us in the locker room, it was very nice. We will have to get up quickly,” said Picquette. Before Kerr-Barlow added: “The coaches were frustrated, but we’re as disappointed as they are.” It must also be said that the absences of Wardi, Bourgarit, Atonio, Boudehent, Alldritt, Botia, Hastoy, Seuteni, Danty, Skelton and Sclavi do not help. The latter two, however, returned to training this week. But for the La Rochelle staff, no excuses, an immediate reaction is expected.
And this reaction could happen as early as Saturday, near Oyonnax. The Aindinois, although spanked last weekend in Toulon (41-7), are not to be taken lightly. After crushing Clermont on the first day (36-17), Charlie Cassang's teammates showed good behavior against Stade Français despite the defeat (28-18) before narrowly losing to Toulouse (21-27) .
Difficult to say who will have the pressure on this meeting... Between the Rochelais beaten twice consecutively against Clermont then Castres and the penultimate Oyonnaxiens and under the threat of a possible victory for the USAP (4 points ahead for Oyonnax ). “We go there with a lot of humility. There will be a whole people behind them. We will have to be mentally ready, we are preparing for a big fight. I've played them quite a bit over the last few years. It's a well-structured team, the players know each other so it's not a team that should be underestimated. She has the weapons to fight in the Top 14,” analyzed Rémi Talès, the coach of the three-quarters of La Rochelle. In the event of success, La Rochelle would return to the Top 6 while a defeat could – depending on the result of Montpellier (12th) – relegate it to the penultimate place in the ranking…