Similar courses bring Castres and Montpellier to the final of the Top 14

Similar courses bring Castres and Montpellier to the final of the Top 14

Castres take on Montpellier in the Top 14 final on Friday in a repeat of their 2018 encounter, with both teams having experienced the roller coaster of French rugby since their last visits to the Stade de France.

When Pierre-Henry Broncan arrived at Stade Pierre Fabre two years ago, he was in charge of recruitment.

Soon after, he became head coach under director of rugby Mauricio Reggiardo with Castres struggling near the relegation zone.

In March 2021 Reggiardo left as Broncan, 48, a close friend of England head coach Eddie Jones, and a side he signed in his first role at the club had won seven of their last eight games championship to finish seventh in the standings.

Unlike many Top 14 outfits, like Toulouse, whom they beat in the semi-finals on Friday, the Castres outfit are devoid of big names, but they are top of the standings at the end of this season with the 10th budget highest stake in the competition.

Broncan’s squad includes players from France’s lower divisions, Uruguayan scrum-half Santiago Arata and hard-working forwards like Australia’s Tom Staniforth and Nick Champion de Crespigny.

“We don’t have internationals in every position, but we have a good squad,” winger Geoffrey Palis told reporters this week.

“Recruitment is well targeted. There is a very good mix.

“There are natural affinities but no guys put aside, no foreigners on one side and the French on the other. Everyone is harmonious and we see it on the ground”, he said. added.

It’s a comparable story for Montpellier who were bottom of the Top 14 standings at the start of the 2020-21 season before director of rugby Philippe Saint-André took over as head coach of sacked Xavier Garbajosa. .

Former France winger Saint-Andre, 55, has made a comeback as a coach after leading the Blues to a humiliating quarter-final loss to New Zealand at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

“Philippe suffered a lot when he was France coach. People were tough on him, sometimes in a very violent way,” Montpellier owner Mohed Altrad told Monday’s edition of the Midi Olympique newspaper.

“After that, he needed time to rebuild himself, to love rugby as before. He is happy again, I see it in his eyes,” he added.

– “Gem” Garbisi –

One of Montpellier’s best performers this season is Italian fly-half Paolo Garbisi, who signed a new contract this week.

Scrum-halves Benoit Paillaugue and Gela Aprasidze have taken to the tee in recent weeks despite the 22-year-old scoring 150 points in his first season in the Top 14 and preventing the Rugby World Cup winner in South Africa Handre Pollard of the No. 10 jersey.

“The staff was very smart,” said Syrian billionaire Altrad.

“Since they removed goalkeeper duties, Paolo is freer on the pitch. He’s a gem,” he added.

Altrad, whose scaffolding company also sponsors French, New Zealand and Australian franchise Western Force, is still chasing his first French title in charge of Montpellier after arriving more than a decade ago.

On Friday, the Altrad side will face a familiar enemy in Castres, fly-half Benjamin Urdapilleta, who scored 22 points in 2018.

“Four years later, this loss still hurts,” Altrad said.

“That night we were favourites, supposedly excellent.

“We fell from so high, things have changed here,” he added.


At Stade de France, Paris

Castres v Montpellier (1845GMT)