French giants Stade Francais and Racing 92 will merge next season, forming an “absolute monster” Top 14 Paris super club.
Both Paris outfits released identical statements confirming their plans yesterday, and now expect France’s Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) to ratify the move.
Stade president Thomas Savare and Racing chief Jacky Lorenzetti believe the two Paris powerhouses are best served pooling resources, throwing up the prospect of former All Black Dan Carter playing alongside Italy superstar Sergio Parisse next term.
Star players in the Racing 92 squad include New Zealand World Cup winners Carter and Joe Rokocoko, while Stade Francais’ top players feature the likes of French international Pascal Pape and Italian legend Parisse.
Former England Sevens star and ex-Stade wing Ollie Phillips tipped the combined clout to stun even France’s cash-rich clubs, but lamented the overnight loss of two storied outfits.
“It’s a real shame for everybody in the fabric of Stade and Racing, and the identities of all that goes with it,” former IRB Sevens player of the year Phillips said.
“The rivalry between the teams has always been strong, and having a local derby in Paris has always produced great intrigue, especially when most of France’s main clubs are in the south.
“To have two teams in the capital going head to head, it could be like a London football derby at times.
“This decision obviously must have been driven by finance. Both clubs have extremely business savvy owners.
“Ultimately combining the resources of the two clubs you can make one extremely powerful super club.
“The result could be an absolute monster, to rival Toulon and Clermont.
“But equally you can only have 15 players on the pitch at any time.
“This will create a great deal of uncertainty for a lot of players, back-room staff and others employed by both clubs.
“A merger will be tough in terms of infrastructure, but also there’s the nostalgia piece where huge amounts of history are lost at a stroke.
“There has always been huge charm in the unique and contrasting characters of the two clubs, and the rivalry that created.”
Both clubs released the same statement at the same time on Monday morning, stunning the wider rugby world with their bold decision to forego history and tradition, and launch the merger.
“Winners of the first two championships in the history of French rugby in 1892 and 1893, Racing 92 and Stade Francais Paris also won the Bouclier de Brennus in the last two seasons,” read the combined statements.
“These two flagship clubs of Paris and the Hauts de Seine, beyond the sporting rivalry they have enjoyed, have many other similarities: a strong local and regional anchorage, a historic educational mission, ancestral ties with the Olympic movement and an inextinguishable will to progress in all areas.
“It is on the basis of these principles that the two clubs lay the foundations for a merger project by pooling their resources to better cope with the challenges of performance and education.
“This association, effective from next season, must give birth to a new club that will preserve the roots of Racing 92 and those of Stade Francais Paris while multiplying the means put at the service of youth and French rugby.
“Consolidated by its dual culture, by the fierce determination of its two presidents and its increased audience in a population pool unmatched in France, this new club has a long-term commitment to build a true reference day after day.”
Backs: Brice Dulin (Racing 92), Joe Rokocoko (Racing 92), Waisea Nayacalevu (Stade), Henry Chavancy (Racing 92), Juan Imhoff (Racing 92), Jules Plisson (Stade), Will Genia (Stade).
Forwards: Eddy Ben Arous (Racing 92), Camille Chat (Racing 92), Rabah Slimani (Stade), Leone Nakarawa (Racing 92), Alexandre Flanquart (Stade), Bernard le Roux (Racing 92), Yannick Nyanga (Racing 92), Sergio Parisse (Stade).
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved