Ronan O’Gara’s Racing have a new name this season, and a new look to their backline following the departures of Jonathan Sexton and Jamie Roberts over the summer.
The Parisian club have dropped the ‘Metro’ from their name and are now known as Racing 92, and in beating Bernard Jackman’s Grenoble last weekend they fielded five Frenchmen in their backline, a novelty for a club that in recent years has spent millions on acquiring overseas talent.
That victory, Racing’s third in the first four matches of the season, moved them into fourth spot in the Top 14 and bodes well for the second half of the season when their backline will be bolstered by the return from the World Cup of Alexandre Dumoulin, Brice Dulin and Remi Tales.
Then there’s the little matter of All Black legend Dan Carter, who arrives in November on a three-year deal.
Carter is the exception to Racing 92’s new recruitment policy in that he is not French and has no experience of the Top 14.
The 33-year-old Kiwi fly-half has been signed as much to sell tickets to the club’s new stadium — which is scheduled to open next season — as to help Racing win silverware.
But Carter apart, Racing coaches Laurent Labit and Laurent Travers have concluded that in future they’ll be no more hiring of Home Nations stars. Sexton, Roberts and Wales flanker Dan Lydiate were not a success and judging by recent comments from the two coaches there is still some simmering resentment at the lack of return Racing got on their investments.
In Monday’s Midi Olympique, Travers explained how their recruitment has changed in the two seasons he and Labit have been at the club.
Now they are looking “for players with a strong attachment to the club”, said Travers, adding: “We really want players who are ready to serve the club rather than players looking after their own interests.
“The investment of the president, whether it is the recruitment, the training centre, the future stadium, is all about the performance. And too often in the past, we have forgotten that.”
Backs coach Labit echoed those sentiments last week in predicting the squad would bounce back from their defeat at Agen by beating Grenoble.
“We saw in the first two seasons players who were focused essentially on their national team,” he said.
“We’re trying to bring back a club spirit.”
Labit’s faith was borne out by the 23-14 win over Grenoble, a victory inspired by their French players.
It’s safe to assume that for the foreseeable future Racing won’t be racing to recruit any more big names from Ireland or Wales.
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