Tag Archives: Stade Francais

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.

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For


Warwick in Munster colours versus Toulon in 2011. (c) Liam Coughlan.

It’s an oft-repeated mantra in rugby that talent alone won’t get you anywhere. Having had “everything at my feet at one point”, Paul Warwick was perhaps heading towards being living proof of that as he struggled to make an impact at the Queensland Reds a decade ago.

However, the chance of a move to Connacht in 2004 meant a working environment  which brought out the best in the Australian’s natural ability. A schoolboy, U21 and 7s international after converting from league at the age of 16, he admits he “didn’t make the most of my opportunities” at home. Removed from his comfort zone, Warwick has thrived in professional rugby since.

Three impressive seasons in the west of Ireland resulted in what looked like a dream move to Munster in 2007. While the following four years in Limerick involved a Heineken Cup medal and two Celtic League successes, it didn’t go completely to plan for a man who prefers to control his team’s attacking play from outhalf. With Ronan O’Gara the undisputed number one in that position there was definite frustration for Warwick:

“At Munster, I was in Ronan’s shadow and had to play at fullback, so the challenge for me was to get back to running things at outhalf.”

When Stade Francais came calling in 2011 it was time to move again, lured by the prospect of securing the outhalf position at the Parisian club. With cultural and language complications to consider, it wasn’t the easiest decision for Warwick and his family, but they have found it a rewarding experience:

“I’ve really enjoyed the different experience, for myself and the family. I mean we would have regretted it if we hadn’t taken the chance. Maybe we didn’t give it our best shot with the language side of things, but to say you’ve lived and played in Paris is pretty great.”

On the pitch, the change from Pro 12 to Top 14 took adjustment, with the week-to-week demands ramped up in France:

“The Top 14 has a lot more competitive teams. In the Pro 12, there are some games against the likes of the Dragons which maybe aren’t as demanding. The pride involved in home games makes it tough in France. Even when you go to a team like Agen, who were relegated this season, it’s a serious challenge with that pride on the line.”

Luke McAlister

Warwick at fullback for Stade versus Toulouse in the Top 14. (c) Pierre Selim.

So has the move away from Ireland given Warwick the on-pitch footballing control that he desired?

Last season, under Michael Chieka, he faced stiff competition from Felipe Contepomi for the 10 shirt and was moved to fullback in order that both players could be accommodated. This season, under new management fronted by Christophe Laussucq, the emergence of 21-year-old Jules Plisson has limited Warwick’s game time at outhalf. Overall, more frustration:

“I didn’t achieve what I wanted to achieve in Paris personally. This season’s been ups and downs really, for me and for the team. Overall, we’re happy with the Amlin, but disappointed with the Top 14. We didn’t achieve the goals we set out at the start of the season.”

Those goals included finishing in the top six of the French championship. 19 points adrift, Stade Francais ended up in 10th. Just two wins away from home was the main reason.

A switch to Aviva Premiership side Worcester Warriors is the next move for 32-year-old Warwick. Worcester may have finished 11th in the Premiership this season, but with Dean Ryan set to take over at the club, Warwick is feeling positive:

‘They haven’t had the best of seasons, but they’re a developing team. With Dean Ryan coming in that’s a big plus, he’s got proven success. I think all the ingredients are there. I’m coming into a club where I don’t really know a whole lot of guys, so it’s just refreshing to be able to start again.”

Another chance to start from scratch, another opportunity to take control at outhalf. Before that, there’s one final task with Stade Francais: the small matter of a European final against heavyweights Leinster.

Paul Warwick in full flight

Warwick in full flight versus the Ospreys during his time with Munster. (c) Ivan O’Riordan.

To be in a final at all came as a surprise to Warwick and his teammates. The Australian credits their European run to a recent change in attitude within the squad:

“It’s been unexpected. Our away form has been abysmal to say the least. But we went to Bath and Perpignan and came away with wins. The team is enjoying the footy we’re playing at the moment. There’s obviously lots of changes going on here, with the coaching team and everything, but we’re enjoying our footy. We’ll give it a real go.”

From Warwick’s point of view, it’s hard to pick out one area in which to target Leinster on Friday night. The focus instead will be on Stade’s own performance:

“Leinster have been the best team in Europe for a number of years, they really don’t have too many weaknesses. For us, the main thing is getting over the gain-line on first phase, putting them under pressure and asking questions of their defence. We have to match them at set-piece and then go from there. If we can do that, who knows?”

Warwick had settle for a place on the bench against Bath and Perpignan, and it looks likely that Plisson will be the man entrusted with the outhalf slot on Friday night. If things don’t go their way, Stade will call on Warwick’s flair and creativity. For himself and Stade, there is no fear in facing Leinster:

“Everyone wrote us off for the Bath and Perpignan matches and we went out and got the wins. We’re at a point where our attitude is that we’ve got nothing to lose, so let’s see what happens.”


Photos: Liam Coughlan, Pierre Selim, Ivan O’Riordan.