Tag Archives: Sergio Parisse

Top 14 Preview: Stade Francais

Stade_Francais_logo The History

Stade Français was founded in 1883 by a group of Parisian students, with their first meeting taking place in the esteemed Le Procope café-restaurant in the 6th arrondissement. The club were part of the first-ever French championship final in 1892, where they were beaten 4-3 by Racing. Undeterred, Stade Français went on to win eight titles between 1893 and 1908. After that initial rush of success the club went into decline for the following 80 years.

In 1992, radio mogul Max Guazzini bought in and began relaunching Stade to former glories. Bernard Laporte joined as coach in ’95, with the club in the third division. His impact was immediate, with Stade Français winning back-to-back promotions before being crowned champions of France in 1998. Laporte moved on to the national team but under John Connolly the success continued in Paris, with another league title in 2000 as well as a Heineken Cup final in 2001 (an incredible game).

Nick Mallet was next in and won championships in ’03 and ’04, with another success under Fabien Galthie in ’07. But in 2011 Stade Français came close to collapse when a major sponsor folded. Relegation to Fédérale 1 was imminent after a messy attempted bail-out deal with a Canadian company. However, Jean-Pierre Savare, chairman of technology company Oberthur, made a significant investment to save the club. His son Thomas took over as president of the club, with Guazzini moving to an honourary position.

The Setting

Stade Jean Bouin

Stade Francais return to their natural home at the Jean-Bouin after three years of exile. (c) Yohan Zerdoun.

Much to the relief of all involved, Paris will be back in their Stade Jean-Bouin home this season, with rebuilding complete. Pascal Papé calls it the “soul of the the club.” The last three seasons were spent at Stade Charléty, which failed to capture the imagination. The new stade is a 20,000 all-seater with club shop, brasserie and all the modern extras you would expect. Solar panels and a system that captures rain for watering the pitch are laudable features. Jean Bouin was an Olympian for France, killed in World War 1.

Last Season

Since taking over in 2011, the Savare family have sunk €20 million of their money into Stade Français, with little return. Last season, the Parisians finished 10th despite having targeted Heineken Cup qualification. They did enjoy a run to the final of the Challenge Cup, where they were outplayed by Leinster. At this stage it’s probably a blessing in disguise that Stade aren’t in the H Cup, as their focus needs to be on the Top 14.

Last season the main problems were poor form away from home and weak defence. Over the past three years, Paris have won just six of their 42 away fixtures in the league. They will need to win more games on their travels if they want to finish in the top six. Only Agen and Mont de Marsan, both relegated, conceded more points than Stade last season. That is certainly an area that needs to be improved.


Stade Toulouse

Stade Francais are still behind the likes of Toulouse but are aiming for sixth. (c) Pierre-Selim.

Club president Thomas Savare couldn’t have made it any clearer in Midi Olympique last month: “I want Stade Français to finish in the top six.” It is exactly what he has said since taking over in 2011, but the impression is that Stade are now in a better position to back it up. Behind the quintet of Toulon, Clermont, Toulouse, Racing and Montpellier, sixth place in the league looks up for grabs. Under new coach Gonzalo Quesada, Stade Français could finally be set for a return amongst the elite.

The Coach

Quesada won 38 caps for Argentina at outhalf, scoring 486 points. His club career in France took in Narbonne, Béziers, Stade Français, Pau and Toulon. All of that was sandwiched between spells with Hindú in his hometown of Buenos Aires. After retiring in 2008, Quesada joined the French national backroom team as kicking coach. Three years later, he signed for Racing Metro as backs coach under Pierre Berbizier, before taking over as head coach last season.

Quesada had barely been in the job a day when news spread that Lorenzetti had  lined up Laurent Labit and Laurent Travers as coaches for the following season. With that lack of security hanging over him, Quesada got off to a poor start. However, form changed post-Christmas when the Argentine led the club on a nine-game winning streak to make the play-offs and qualify for the H Cup. Quesada joins Stade Français with a reputation for being popular amongst his players and technically excellent.

Transfer Activity

2012-03-31 Stormers vs Bulls

Springbok outhalf Steyn has signed from the Bulls. (c) Paul Barnard.

The two big-name signings are Morne Steyn and Digby Ioane. Capped 45 times for South Africa, Steyn’s list of honours include a Tri-Nations win, three Super Rugby titles, two Currie Cups and an U21 World Cup. The 29-year-old’s reliable kicking game will be a crucial asset for Stade Français. Unfortunately for Quesada, Steyn doesn’t arrive in Paris until November, by which time Stade will have played 10 or 11 games.

Ioane at his best is one of the most explosive attacking players in the world. Stade Français have rewarded that ability by making Ioane one of the highest paid players in the world, on around €840,000 a year. The 28-year-old will come under fierce pressure to make an instant impact. Unfortunately for Stade, the Wallaby won’t be fit until December following shoulder surgery.

Richard Kingi, the versatile Wallabies-capped back, joins from the Rebels, while Ioane’s nephew Marty, also a winger, is another new face. Stade have made three impressive signings in the front-row in the shape of Davit Kubriashvili, Heinke Van der Merwe and Sakaria Taulafo. Kubriashvili had been frustrated by the lack of games at Toulon, but remains a destructive tighthead. Taulafo arrives from Wasps to add to the existing prop stock of David Attoub, Rabah Slimani and Zurhab Zhvania.

With lots of depth in the front-row, Stade’s scrum should be a powerful weapon this season. (c) Marie-Lan Nguyen.

In the backs, Meyer Bosman, 28, joins from the Sharks. The outhalf has been capped three times for South Africa, and has played much of his most recent rugby in the number 12 shirt. 18-year-old Fijian back Andrea Cocagi signs for the academy from Italian side L’Aquila, where he is joined by Irishman Peter Lydon. Amongst the players who have left Stade Français this summer are Paul Warwick, Felipe Contepomi, Stan Wright and Paul Sackey.

Key Players

Sergio Parisse’s reputation grows with every game. His skills and work-rate are reason alone to watch Stade Français, and he will continue to be a vital player. Captain Pascal Papé has been out injured for the last six months with a serious back injury. The French international lock is hoping to be fit for the start of the Top 14 next month. Aled de Malmanche is set to move to hooker after excelling at loosehead last season. The All Black is phenomenally strong, reputedly bench pressing 220kg.

At scrumhalf, French international Julien Dupuy is a playmaker for the Parisians. His form can be inconsistent, and the 29-year-old needs a good season if Stade are to push for the top six. Jules Plisson, 21, emerged as a real talent last season and will have a big part to play at outhalf prior to Steyn’s arrival. In the centre, Geoffrey Doumayrou’s pace is a handful for defenders, while fullback Hugo Bonneval, 22, is a promising talent.

Irish Connection


Scott Lavalla joined Stade Francais in 2011. (c) Jean-Marc CpaKmoi.

Peter Lydon, 21, joined Stade Français’ academy last month having impressed at outhalf for Seapoint in the Ulster Bank League. The Kilkenny man featured for Leinster’s underage teams up to U20. Lydon benefited from club coach Nigel Osborne’s extensive French connections, and now has the chance to impress in Paris.

Scott Lavalla goes into his third season with the club. The American international played for Trinity while studying there, and also represented the Ulster Ravens. His athleticism is deployed from lock or the back row.

Also of interest to Irish supporters will be the progress of loosehead Heinke van der Merwe. After three seasons of excellent service to Leinster, the Springbok will look forward to the scrummaging test of the Top 14. Under ex-Pumas prop Patricio Noriega, Stade Français’ mêlée should be a strength and may well drive them up the Top 14 table.


Photos: Paul Barnard, Yohan Zerdoun, Jean-Marc CpaKmoi, Marie-Lan Nguyen.

The Touchline’s Player of The Championship

(c) καρλο.

The RBS Six Nations released the shortlist for their Player of the Championship this week. The winner is to be decided by the public’s online votes, with 12 candidate to choose from. The candidates are the 12 players who were awarded the RBS Man of the Match in each match in the first 4 rounds of the tournament. It’s a silly way to choose the shortlist, as the Man of the Match award is decided by the naturally biased host broadcasters at each match. Check out the official list here.

Julien Malzieu doesn’t deserve to be anywhere near the shortlist, with only one good display against Italy over the course of the Championship. Yoann Maestri made an impact for France, but having him ahead of Richie Gray is ridiculous. Donnacha Ryan did make an impression for Ireland, but he didn’t start the first three games. There’s plenty of holes to be picked in the shortlist, and it’s arguably missing some of the strongest performers of this year’s Six Nations.

So, The Touchline has decided to make our own shortlist for Player of the Championship. 12 players is too many, so we’ve gone for the 7 players who we feel have stood out in the first four rounds. We’ve put a poll in at the bottom of the piece so you can let us know who you would pick! Next week, we’ll reveal who you voted as The Touchline’s Player of the Championship. Please feel free to comment, letting us know why you went for the player you did, or if you would have included other players on the list…


Rob Kearney

Kearney has made more clean line-breaks than any other player in the Six Nations so far. (c) Ken Bohane.

Kearney has been in superb form for Leinster all season, but he has stepped his game up to new heights in this Six Nations. While there have been questions marks over his covering tackling (Fofana’s try and Richie Gray’s effort), the 25-year-old’s fielding and counter-attacking have been inspirational for Ireland. The fullback has played almost every minute in Ireland’s campaign, only coming off with 8 minutes left against Scotland.

Kearney has looked supremely confident throughout the tournament, and the stats clearly back up the positive impression he has made. With 411, he is top of the ‘metres gained in possession’ stakes. He has made the most clean line-breaks with 6 and he is joint-top of the ‘defenders beaten’ list with George North, both on 15. Every time Kearney touches the ball, he looks like creating something. Hopefully, his confident form continues against England on Saturday.


Wesley Fofana

With 4 tries in 4 games, Fofana has had a dream start to his international career. The Clermont speedster has come from nowhere this season, taking his chance with his club side during the World Cup, and never looking back. Originally a winger, Fofana’s move to inside centre has been a massive success. His pace and awareness of space make him a constant threat in attack, and while he’s not the biggest man, his natural power and speed make him a competent defender (2 missed tackles from 31 attempts).

Despite Fofana’s excellence in the centre, Philippe Saint-Andre has decided to move him to the wing for this Saturday’s game in Wales. It seems a strange decision, but the 24-year-old did damage there after Clerc’s first half injury against England. Having beaten 14 defenders in 4 games, ‘The Cheetah’ (his nickname in France) will do damage wherever he plays. Keeping George North quiet will be a difficult task, but the French man has passed every other test so far.


Ritchie Gray

Gray on the way to scoring a brilliant individual try against Ireland. (c) Ken Bohane.

The 6’10” second-row has played every single minute for Scotland in this Six Nations campaign, and has been brilliant in every single one of them. Still just 22, the 20 stone monster gets better with every game. He is a definite 2013 Lion. With his obvious physical advantage, Gray is a lineout king, and has the most number of lineout takes of any player, with 18. While he hasn’t been too prolific with clean steals, he makes opposition ball constantly scrappy out of touch.

Added to that, the Warriors’ second-row has been hugely influential in open play. His athleticism and skills are spectacular for a man of his potentially awkward dimensions. His try against Ireland is an obvious example, and Gray is joint-top of the Scottish clean line-breaks table. His offloading game has been intelligent and accurate too. To top it all off, Gray has yet to miss a tackle in the tournament,  making all 33 attempts. He has been a truly complete performer for Scotland.


Owen Farrell

The English wonderkid was the source of plenty of hype coming into this tournament and he has lived up to much of it. Starting the first two games at outside centre, the 20-year-old was defensively outstanding if a little unspectacular in attack. His move to outhalf for the Wales and France games have seen him look a lot more comfortable. The entire English game has benefited from having Farrell direct play at 10.

For a young player in his debut international tournament, Farrell’s defensive game has been world-class. He has only missed 2 out of 33 tackles, but it is the power with which he hits that has impresses. His huge tackle on Harinordoquy last weekend was a perfect example. His distribution is steadily improving, and his place kicking has been very good. Kicking out of hand is one area where the youngster needs to improve, but he has plenty of time to do so. Farrell is already a guaranteed first-choice for England after this superb introduction to the international game.


Sergio Parisse

Parisse scoring against Ireland. (c) Ken Bohane.

It’s pretty much a given that Parisse is included in shortlists like this every single year. The Stade Francais man’ contributions for Italy are always magnificent and it’s hard not to feel sorry for him. His frustration at teammate’s poor efforts has been a little more evident this year, but it’s hard to blame him. It would be fascinating to see the No.8 operate within a better team. Imagine him with the Lions next year? He must do so himself. However, Parisse continues to give his best for Italy though.

The 6’5″ back-row has been Italy’s top ball carrier so far this tournament with 40, although Andrea Masi only trails by a single carry. That makes Parisse the 6th most regular ball carrier in the Championship. He has also made 5 turnovers in the 4 games so far. That said, this has not been Parisse’s best ever tournament. Uncharacteristically, he has missed 6 tackles. Still, he has stood out for Italy and is always one of the finest players in the Six Nations.


George North

It really is hard to fathom the fact that North only turns 20 next month. The Welsh winger is already one of the best wide men in world rugby and could easily become the undisputed number one. At 6’4″, well over 17 stone and with pace to burn, he is a beast of a teenager but that often masks just how good a rugby player he is. While it’s inarguable that North’s physical prowess gives him a huge advantage, he is also an intelligent player with a strong understanding of how he can best use his assets. He comes off his wing to great effect and is always looking for work.

North began the campaign with a brilliant try-scoring display against Ireland. His beautiful offload for Jon Davies’ second try showed his skills at their best. The Scarlets winger hasn’t scored since, but he has been hugely effective with ball in hand. Alongside Kearney, he has beaten the most defenders at 15. Defensively, he really hasn’t been called into action that much but has looked solid on those rare occasions. A definite Lion next year, and a phenomenal rugby talent.


Stephen Ferris

Ferris has been equally strong in defence and attack this season. (c) Ken Bohane.

Here at The Touchline, we are massive fans of Ferris. After a quiet opening game against Wales, the Ulster man has gone into overdrive with his muscular performances. Earlier in the week, we shared our love for Ferris, so read more about his displays and why he’s on this list here.


Honourable Mentions: Dan Lydiate, Ross Rennie, David Denton, Alex Cuthbert, Imanol Harinordoquy, Alex Corbisiero, Dan Cole, Jonathan Davies, Leigh Halfpenny.



Photos courtesy:  Ken Bohaneκαρλο.

Italy Make Changes for Aviva Clash

Italy Pre-Match Huddle

Ireland welcome Italy to the Aviva on Saturday. (c) Elentari86.

Jacques Brunel has made four changes to the Italian side which went down 19-15 to England two weekends ago. Despite his poor showing off the bench against England, Tobias Botes has been selected ahead of Kris Burton at outhalf. Deciding who fills the number 10 jersey for Italy must be a hard decision, for all the wrong reasons. In the centre, Alberto Sgarbi surprisingly returns to the side in place of the hard-tackling Gonzalo Canale.

Up front, fans’ favourite Martin Castrogiovanni looks like he will miss the rest of the tournament with the rib injury sustained against England. Treviso tighthead Lorenzo Cittadini will look to fill the Leicester man’s boots. On the other side of the front-row, Cittadini’s Treviso teammate Michele Rizzo comes in for Andrea Lo Cicero. As always, it’s a big, strong Italian pack who will look to ask serious questions of Ireland at scrum and maul time.

How do you think the game will go? Will it be an easy win for Ireland to get things back on track, or do you expect it to be closer than usual? Comment below with your predictions for the game on Saturday.

Italy team to face Ireland

1. Michele Rizzo (Treviso)

2. Leonardo Ghiraldini (Treviso)

3. Lorenzo Cittadini (Treviso)

4. Quintin Geldenhuys (Aironi)

5. Marco Bortolami (Aironi)

6. Alessandro Zanni (Treviso)

7. Robert Barbieri (Treviso)

8. Sergio Parisse (Stade Francais, capt.)

9. Edoardo Gori (Treviso)

10. Tobias Botes (Treviso)

11. Luke McLean (Treviso)

12. Alberto Sgarbi (Treviso)

13. Tommaso Benvenuti (Treviso)

14. Giovanbattista Venditti (Aironi)

15. Andrea Masi (Aironi)


16. Tommaso D’Apice (Aironi) 17. Fabio Staibano (Aironi) 18. Antonio Pavanello (Treviso) 19. Simone Favaro (Aironi) 20. Fabio Semenzato (Treviso), 21. Kris Burton (Treviso) 22. Gonzalo Canale (Clermont).


Photo courtesy: Elentari86.