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Top 14: powerful but not flamboyant, Stade Rochelais must find momentum in the final sprint

The power of its pack is the master weapon of Stade Rochelais.

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Top 14: powerful but not flamboyant, Stade Rochelais must find momentum in the final sprint

The power of its pack is the master weapon of Stade Rochelais. She is known and feared. The problem, four days before the end of the regular phase, comes rather from the lack of drive and dynamism of the Maritimes attack line. This was seen during its last success, at the end of April, snatched without an offensive bonus against RC Toulon (27-17). What the third line Oscar Jégou, author in extremis of the liberation essay (80th 3), recognised, between the lines: “We had been shelling the goal for quite some time, it's thanks to the work of everyone that I manage to mark. We drew on resources, I came back at half-time so I still had some juice but I saw my teammates who were struggling but hanging on. Everyone made the effort, it paid off at the end of the match.”

The final sprint is launched in the Top 14 and the Rochelais - eliminated from the Champions Cup in the quarter-finals (by Leinster), after having played in the last three finals and won two titles - have had two weeks to regenerate and prepare their trip to Chaban-Delmas against Bordeaux-Bègles (3rd). But there was no question of taking a break, manager Ronan O’Gara kept his players under control. The upcoming program promises to be copious: after the UBB, Stade Rochelais will host the Section Paloise, will travel to Toulouse and end with the reception of Racing 92. What a great crowd. “We will play our last four matches against direct competitors,” insists center Ulupano Seuteni in Sud Ouest. It's better, because it will be hard, but like a final phase. And you have to be ready to play tough matches.”

First, place UBB, a team that is doing well in the Maritimes since they have eight victories in their last eleven confrontations. But, in the event of a setback in Gironde, La Rochelle could see its place in the top 6 threatened because, at the same time, its direct competitors, Toulon and Perpignan, will have the advantage of hosting Lyon and Clermont respectively. The La Rochelle captain, Grégory Alldritt, is aware that his team must return to its best level. “You all saw the matches. During the week, the team does not make excuses, it analyzes, opens its eyes and sees the gaps that we still have. It's great. In addition, we have really changed the way we work, we do it more like the start of the season, whereas we are at the end, because we need it,” he also confided in Sud Ouest .

The Stade Rochelais season was chaotic (only 3 victories in the first 8 days) after the last World Cup. The caravel club experienced serious air gaps, lacked consistency and efficiency in its frontal rugby. But Ronan O’Gara remains confident in the quest for a first Brennus. “We have already won two European Cup titles but that is not enough, even if some think it is enough. I'm a liar if I say that everything is good because everything is not good, he admitted on RMC. In the Top 14, it's in the crisis that you find something that you don't know about your team..."

And the demanding Irish technician looks forward to a possible reunion with Toulouse, who beat his team twice in the final, in 2021 and 2023: “If we don’t perform well, we won’t be in the six. If we are, the only other team that has a winning culture is Toulouse. But currently it's 70/30 against them, but if we reach the final, it will be 50/50. The other teams have not won titles and this liability will count in the rest of the competition. La Rochelle has four matches to find some momentum and once again become the steamroller that terrorized (almost) everyone in recent seasons.

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