UP THE FRENCHMAN'S CREEK ON OUR LAST PADDLE
October 17 2018
MESSAGE TO SARACENS SUPPORTERS: “Anyone fancy a game of rugby on Saturday evening? Very friendly club. Nice French opposition. Please apply to Saracens asap”
Well maybe things haven’t quite reached that level but we aren’t far off. Last weekend’s bruising game against Glasgow Warriors has left Billy on the side lines for 3 months, Nick out for 8 weeks and Mako for 6. That’s before we even mention the broken nose boys (Jamie & Maro) – still, when it comes to noses, they have their role model to aspire to in Captain Fantastic not to mention the legendary Jacques Burger. Faz’s bang on the knee has barely rated a mention so hopefully he’s OK! Then Loz was in the naughty corner and got himself a 2 week ban (given that the Disciplinary Committee felt it should have been a red card we’ll probably take that in lieu) but that’s another of our first choices on the sidelines on Saturday.
So who’s left? Presumably Baz will step up for Mako (who’s on the bench though?), if Jamie doesn’t make it then I think Tolofua will do the job for us (and may give some extra carrying power which we will be lacking without the Vunipolas) and Koch and Titi between them have held up the tighthead side. Kruis and Skelton can lock together plus or minus Maro. In the back row we are really gonna miss Billy. I rather doubt Vailanu will be rushed back into action (is he even fit?) so I would expect Jackson will resume with the number 8 shirt alongside Rhodes and Maro or maybe Burger to add a bit of umph.
In the backs, Goodey is safe and sound I assume (unless he needs to play stand-off in which case I assume Liam will revert to 15). Otherwise I would think our Liam will return to the wing (he was almost fit last weekend) probably alongside Maitland on the other side with Stretts on the bench (although the Fish are currently featuring Alex Lewington so I assume he will have a role to play). Brad will be there almost regardless probably with Tompkins alongside him and Bosch maybe on the bench. Hopefully Faz has recovered because he’s irreplaceable alongside Wiggy or Spenno (maybe Spenno’s turn?) A decent enough team but whereas last week the bench was awesome, this weekend the bench will be somewhat less scary.
So to our opponents. For all their heroics in the French Top 14, they are Euro-virgins and as the likes of Exeter Chiefs have discovered, Europe is a whole different ball game. Lyon lost at home to Cardiff Blues last Sunday (6 day turn round for both clubs) without even a losing bonus point. Saracens at Allianz will be another challenge for the Club, not least needing to get to grips with the artificial pitch.
So what do we know about Lyon? Their official name is Lyon Olympique Universitaire or “Le LOU” (my daughter is a Lou – how nice). Le Lou is one of the oldest sports clubs in France, having been founded in 1896. Lyon has had a number of names:- Racing Club, Racing et Cercles Reunis, Lyon Olympique and finally in 1910, Lyon Olympique Universitaire. Lyon were finally promoted to the Top 14 in 2011 but then spent the next few seasons yo-yoing between the 2 tiers before cementing their place last year with a 5th place finish and a losing semi-final to Montpelier. Lyon are yet another team to play in red and black. This year they are in 3rd place behind our old friends ASM and Stade Francais (neither of whom qualified for the Champions League this season). Lyon have had a pretty solid Top 14 season starting out with a draw at home to Toulouse, followed by defeat away to Champions Castres, before winning away at lowly Perpignan, then thumping Montpelier at home. Defeat away to La Rochelle was followed by a home win over Grenoble and finally an away victory at Racing. Their nickname is “Les Loups” – the wolves. The Wolfpack v the Wolves. Tasty!
What Lyon lack in experience, they make up for in talent. The club have a generous budget through their president Yann Roubert. They are managed by Pierre Mignoni (much travelled French scrum half). Lyon have a large playing staff and looking back through the season so far there has been plenty of squad rotation so quite who will pop up on Saturday is anyone’s guess! Lyon have 2 Englishmen among the playing staff – Delon Armitage & Carl Fearns however the real danger will more like come from Fijian wing Noa Nakaitaci (who joined this season from ASM having missed much of last year with a knee injury). Lyon also boast a host of New Zealand backs: Toby Arnold on the other wing (so Sarries will need to keep their wits about them with wide ball), Charlie Ngatai (full back) & Rudi Wulf (centre) also started against Cardiff alongside Frenchman Thibalt Regard. Lyon may opt for Pierre-Louis Barrassi instead of one of them. The first choice half backs are fairly interchangeable but French through and through: Lionel Beauxis and Jean-Marc Doussain started against Blues although we could see Jonathan Pelissie and/or Jonathan Wisniewski start instead.
Moving to the front row, against Blues, Lyon went for props Alexandre Menini and Francisco Gomez Kodela. Raphael Chaume may well get a start on Saturday. Mickael Ivaldi was the chosen hooker but Lyon have also started Jeremie Maurouard and Virgile Lacombe at 2. Locks were Felix Lambey & South African Hendrick Roodt but Lyon could field an all South African second row including Etienne Oosthuizen & Francois van der Merwe. In the back row, Julian Puricelli (captain), Patrick Sobela and Loann Goujon started last week but Australian Liam Gill or even Fearns could also feature.
The impact of last weekend has made this a very tough nut. But Sarries tend to do well in the face of adversity and I fully expect them to rise to the occasion, take advantage of Lyon’s European naivety, and win this one. A try bonus point would be nice but let’s not be greedy! We will be in the "capable" hands of George Clancy - so something to look forward to there! Quite whether we will have 23 fit players left to put out against Leicester in the new Cup Competition next week is anyone’s guess. I’ll go get my boots!
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2018:10:29:16:09:46 by Darraghgirl.
Kairdiff were lucky to win - two interception tries.
My favourite French nurse tells me that Gill is still not fit, but she drinks a lot, so I will wait and see! Fearns looked good, though.
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Great review. Can anyone remind me is Titi a TH who can play LH or a LH who was converted to a TH?
Pretty sure he is a TH who can play LH Martin
European champions 2016 & 2017
He can squat very low at TH (as does the impressive Judge), and with his experience has gained more knowledge of the dark arts than e.g. HT-S; he is not afraid to take his opponent to ground, or bore in on the hooker. He has surprised me a little so far this season at how well he has held up at TH. For me as a LH he struggles with his angle (perhaps due to his body shape?) and gives his opponent too easy a route to our hooker. Any props out there who could opine?
Good read again DG - thank you.