Now, I shan’t lie to you; my concern for Racing Metro doesn’t stretch far beyond two very important factors: Juan Martin Hernandez and Mirco Bergamasco. Much as I would like this profile to consist entirely of photographs of these two delightful boys, I’d be doing you, your mother and your neighbour’s dog and injustice because the Sky and White are having a pretty good run in the Top 14 right now, sitting at the head of the table for the first time in twenty years at the time of writing. All in all, they’re worth more than a mere quirk of the eyebrow from the likes of me.
Racing Metro first set up shop in the 1800s, where we like to imagine that plus fours and bowler hats were de riguer on the pitch…
They sealed their place in French rugby history by playing in and winning the first ever French rugby championship against their Parisien counterparts Stade Francais. While Stades Francais and Bordelais went on to pretty much boss the championship in coming years, Racing racked up five victories at sporadic intervals and settled as runners-up six times.
Skip forward to the modern day and while Stade Francais were getting a Guazzini makeover and setting about becoming giants of French rugby in the 1990s, Racing were relegated to the second division. The tide started to turn when they got their own Italian entrepreneur chairman, Jacky Lorenzetti, in 2006. While there may have been far fewer bells and whistles (and fireworks and Gloria Gaynor), the intention was similar: to get Racing back on form, back in the Top 14 and into the H-Cup. Done, done and done.
Let’s have a look at some of the big hitters:
Lionel Nallet and Sebastien Chabal
They don’t hit much harder than these two. Nallet and Chabal both signed up in 2009 when, having reinstated Racing back in the Top 14, Lorenzetti was keen to silence the cynics. Landing this powerhouse duo was a good way of setting about his goal. Lock Nallet took on skipper duties last season and number 8 Chabal is… Sebastien Chabal. ‘Nuff said.
South African Steyn signed in 2009 for a two-year stint at Yves-du-Manoir. He’s been making waves since his Boks debut at the tender age of 19 and now, at 23, he and his foot have made quite an impression in France. He remains one to watch, with the added bonus of being incredibly easy on the eye.
Juan Martin Hernandez and Mirco Bergamasco
These two aforementioned lovelies are new signings for the 2010/11 season. Both Stade Francais alumni, their arrival at Racing sees a return to French rugby for Juan after one season with Natal Sharks and that rarest of things for Mirco: playing on a team without his brother. JMH isn’t quite fighting fit right now, not only still recovering from a back injury from last season but also pulling out of last week’s game against La Rochelle with a dodgy thigh. As for baby Bergamasco, he’ll get a chance to seek revenge on big brother Mauro for any childhood woes when Racing take on Stade in December.
Racing have been unfortunate enough to draw Leinster in their H-Cup pool and will take them on in a home game in January, but if they maintain the form they’ve been exhibiting in the Top 14, the task might not seem so daunting. Allez les ciel et blanc!
Words by Anna, pictures by various