Top 14 – Between provocations, respect and friendships, how Toulouse – La Rochelle became the new rivalry of French rugby

Top 14 – Between provocations, respect and friendships, how Toulouse – La Rochelle became the new rivalry of French rugby
Top 14 – Between provocations, respect and friendships, how Toulouse – La Rochelle became the new rivalry of French rugby

It is undoubtedly the most anticipated poster of the championship. The oppositions between Stade Toulouse and Stade Rochelais have become over the years the new rivalry in French rugby. The reasons are the sporting results, the links between the two teams and of course the relationship between Ugo Mola and Ronan O’Gara.

Smirk, wink, pretense and cutting statements. Ugo Mola and Ronan O’Gara are at the heart of the new Toulouse-La Rochelle rivalry. The two managers crystallize the tensions surrounding this duel which has become, over the course of the confrontations, one of the main attractions of the championship. At the time of the matches that count, each media outing from one of the two coaches is awaited and they rarely disappoint when it comes to discussing their rival. Last season, as La Rochelle prepared to face Union Bordeaux-Bègles in the 2023 Top 14 semi-final, at a press conference Ugo Mola was asked about the training of Ronan O’Gara. The pole held out by one of our colleagues at a press conference is seized by the Toulouse manager who places the Maritimes as the new “scarecrow” of French rugby. Expected, Ronan did O’Gara : “It’s not interesting. Ugo Mola’s opinion on La Rochelle yesterday, today, or tomorrow does not interest me.”

A week later, the two teams met in the final and Toulouse won a new shield from Brennus at the end of a completely crazy final. While the Rochelais lead 26-22 two minutes from the end of the match, Romain Ntamack offers victory to his team with a stroke of genius from elsewhere. La Rochelle’s disappointment is then at the level of Toulouse’s relief and Ronan O’Gara curses after the match: “It’s an average team facing us […]. I think we need to stop saying that it was a huge Stade Toulousain. I don’t agree with that”. A new statement which set the media sphere ablaze before the Irishman reconsider his words in the Irish show Off The Ball : “I was disrespectful by saying it was an average Toulouse team”.

Two striking examples of a rivalry between two men who liven up our championship every season. Remember this eye duel during the 24th day of the Top 14 season 2021/22. The two men provoke each other under the bronca of a Toulouse Stadium logically acquired by the French manager before the latter turns around and rewards the public with one of his winks which has become iconic. Loved or hated, the two men have in common that they leave no one indifferent, to the delight of the media. But all this disappears at kick-off time and the rivalry becomes sporting. Here too, disappointment is rare.

Red and black beast

Toulouse and Rochelais have faced each other four times in the final phase since the arrival of Ronan O’Gara on the Maritimes bench. The results are clear, the Toulouse residents have won each time, gleaning a Champions Cup (22-17 in the 2020/21 final) and two Brennus shields (18-8 in the 2020/21 final; 29-26 in the final). 2022/23) and depriving Grégory Alldritt’s teammates of qualification for the semi-finals during the 2021/22 Top 14 play-off (33-28).

In the last fourteen confrontations between the two stadiums, the Maritimes have only three wins at home. They have never been able to take the Toulouse team from behind on the banks of the Garonne and the best result away from Marcel-Deflandre dates back to June 2 and the draw obtained during the 25th day of the championship (31-31). This result largely in favor of the Toulouse residents makes them the bane of the Rochelais who try to “force destiny” as much as they can “to compete with them” in the words of Ronan O’Gara. The duels between Toulouse and Maritimes are an opportunity to see many French internationals clash, but above all childhood friends, a fact which adds intrigue to this new classic.

A rivalry with a Gers accent

It’s no secret that the links between the players of Stade Toulouse and Stade Rochelais go beyond their association with the French team. Antoine Dupont, Grégory Alldritt, Anthony Jelonch, Pierre Bourgarit or Paul Graou, the Gersois populate both squads. All these players have rubbed shoulders within RC Auch. The links are particularly strong between the La Rochelle captain and the Gersois of Ernest-Wallon. There is no doubt that the third row will be keen to finally win in the final phase against his childhood friends. Whatever the result of this semi-final (Friday 8:15 p.m.) the romance around the opposition between Stade Toulouse and Stade Rochelais will only be reinforced.

-

-

PREV In Quimper, all the woods are now open and nearly €600,000 spent
NEXT Police officer injured in knife attack, attacker in critical condition