European Rugby Cup: Racing 92 finally wants to win a star

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It might sound like a nursery rhyme: “You’ll get it after three.” “But the quest for a first European title for Racing 92 has the appearance for the moment of an unfinished novel whose epilogue – happy or unhappy – will be written this Saturday near Bristol where the players Ciel-et -Blanc will challenge the English club of Exeter (5.45 p.m., France 2 and beIN Sports 3). English soil has never been very conducive to French victories but the closed session imposed on Ashton Gate in Bristol due to health constraints could compensate for the very real impression of being in hostile terrain.

After two lost finals and as many mistakes made again, first against the Saracens in 2016 (9-21) then two years later against the Irish province of Leinster (12-15), where Racing had almost glimpsed the first star, here are again the Ile-de-France players on the way to being crowned. The Henry Chavancy center, the child of the club who climbed all the levels one by one to the point of becoming the emblematic captain, had strong words to say what would represent in his eyes a first continental coronation: “There are 12 or 13 years old, we were still in the second division. For me, winning the title in Pro D2 and the European Cup with the same club would really have a special flavor. “

“It would be the realization of fourteen years of efforts”

After the title of champion of France obtained in 2016 in the unique context of a final relocated to Camp Nou in Barcelona in front of 100,000 spectators, the Ile-de-France club, owned by Jacky Lorenzetti, has made a European coronation a real obsessive quest, an ultimate quest. “It would be the realization of fourteen years of efforts,” agreed the businessman. Between the Catalan fever and fervor and the windy and humid Bristolian closed door, it’s a bit the shock of extremes. “We’ve never known that. In the minds, we will be ready to face this particular context, which will be unique, reassures scrum half Maxime Machenaud. We had a unique Top 14 final in Spain. We will experience something completely different but also unique (in Bristol). “

Star recruits like New Zealander Dan Carter were not enough to grant the wish for a European coronation. And it is finally the year when the strength of Ciel-et-Blanc rests above all on a flawless collective with some genius soloists – the Scottish Finn Russell, Virimi Vakatawa and Teddy Iribaren – that the men of manager Laurent Travers could be the first French team since Toulon in 2015 to settle on the roof of Europe.

Racing first had to play with the external elements and the Covid-19 which spread two weeks ago among Henry Chavancy’s teammates to the point of causing the isolation of nine of them and the postponement of the Top 14 match against La Rochelle. It is in Corsica in Porto-Vecchio (Corse-du-Sud) that the workforce gathered in a bubble to prepare for its final. Contact training only resumed collectively on Thursday and all PCR tests came back negative. Will retirement in Corsica be enough when it comes time to face the Exeter club, a real plague at this stage of the competition but a real safe bet in England?

The number: 4

If successful Saturday at Bristol against Exeter, Racing 92 would become the 4th French team to win the Champions Cup (formerly H Cup) after Toulouse (4 titles in 1996, 2003, 2005 and 2010), Toulon (2013, 2014 and 2015) and Brive (1997).

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