A historic weekend? Rugby League has been struggling for years to come out of the rut, a nice cousin of the game of XV but always in its shadow, reduced to a piece of Occitania which maintains a pale flame. But now this Saturday, October 9, the Catalan Dragons of Perpignan spin to Manchester to challenge St Helens in the final of the Super League, the English championship in which the French club has participated since 2006, the only one admitted to play in the most upscale European competitions in discipline. The Dragons therefore have the opportunity to become the first foreign champion of the event.
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And now, the next day, Sunday, October 10, Toulouse Olympique XIII receives Featherstone in the Championship final, the second English division in which the Pink City club has participated since 2017, the only foreigner included in this championship which offers its winner the accession to the prestigious Super League. The Toulouse residents are therefore very close to joining the Dragons, a dream they have cherished for more than a decade.
“All of this is the result of hard work”, asks Bernard Guasch, the president of the Dragons. For four years, around Steve McNamara, the former coach of the England team (from 2010 to 2015), the club has strengthened to erase this lack of consistency that it is often criticized by specialists across the Channel. “We have made a big effort on training, in order to add foreign playersyoung French people finally performing ”, explains Bernard Guasch. Toulouse Olympique has also bet on a very high-end workforce by carrying out a three-star recruitment for this season.
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The two clubs are based, it is true, on a more solid financial base, “A professionalization which allows us this constant progression”, sums up Bernard Sarrazain, at the helm of the “TO” for nine years, and who also welcomes the big blow achieved this year: an agreement signed with the Toulouse Stadium, under which the Quinzist club welcomes its cousin in its Ernest stadium. Walloon. “Which proves that we can overcome the old sterile quarrels”applauds Bernard Sarrazain.
The club also benefits from numerous partners from the “Oval Table” which brings together 300 local sponsors, one of the city’s most popular entrepreneur networks. The TO budget (3.6 million euros) should double in the event of a rise in the Super League, thanks in particular to television rights multiplied by eight to reach 1.5 million euros.
The TO, however, would approach the Super League with almost half the resources of the Catalan Dragons, now with more than 11 million in budget, including 4.5 million generated by private sponsors, some of them national. “A derby with the TO in the Super League, that would be great, enthuses Bernard Guasch. I hope that we will thus draw other French clubs, while participating in the emergence of a beautiful team of France. “
Finally revitalize the French team
This is the last stage of the rocket, the one that is still missing. “The French rugby union team has been chasing good results for decades, underlines the historian Mike Rylance, English of his state but specialist in the game to XIII in the Hexagon. It will still take time to bring out enough promising young players capable of competing with their English counterparts. But the time has finally come for optimism. “
Elected in December 2020, the new Federal President Luc Lacoste does not fail to punctuate his speech. “Today, we are finally all moving forward together: the triptych is the Dragons, the TO, the France team. We have overhauled our training system, we are launching an unrivaled recruitment campaign. The planets, it seems to me, are lining up. The nations of the South which dominate the discipline are starting to look at us. “
In the same vein, France is suddenly a candidate for the organization of the 2025 World Cup. It should be able to measure the level of its Blues from next October 23, in Perpignan, during a hot France-England. The Dragons, Toulouse, the Blues, and why not three consecutive victories?
The 2025 World Cup in France?
This is the dream pursued by the new Federal President Luc Lacoste: to organize the Rugby Union World Cup in 2025. The last time France alone hosted the event was in 1972. Australia, nation flagship of the discipline, would look favorably on the French candidacy. “I also recently met Bernard Laporte, the president of the XV Federation, who assured me of full support., says Luc Lacoste. Which proves that yesterday’s wars are over. We share the same ball. We are pushing in the same direction. “