Resident Stade enthusiast Anna takes a look back on an eventful week for Max Guazzini’s boys in pink in a Newspilez special…
James Haskell topped the bill of big name players who were officially released by Stade Francais this week and while this comes as no huge surprise following ongoing reports of financial struggles and structural shake ups, the future for Uncle Gigi’s boys looks a little hazy. However, never one to miss a marketing opportunity, ol’ Max used the announcement of these departures to simultaneously silence the naysayers and to launch a fetching “Pink is Not Dead” t-shirt. You’ve got to admire that sass.
So what happens now?
Well, no one is going to dispute that Stade had a miserable season in 2010/11 and it’s safe to assume that losing out on their last gasp attempt with the Amlin Challenge Cup may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back for many. Furthermore, the club’s money woes have been evident for a while, not least of all when Mirco Bergamasco was released from his contract a year early to join Parisien rivals Racing Metro last Spring. But the t-shirt makes a good case.
Out with the old…
A big overhaul is one of the best parts of a new season. New players, new start, new kit (abundantly important around Gigi’s way), new attitude and new aspirations. While Stade are of course losing some talent, it’s also clear that some players have run their course with the club.
Haskell is a prime example. He’s a young player with a lot of hype surrounding him. He made a good showing in this year’s Six Nations and will undoubtedly want to be making a similar mark at club level. If my memory serves me correctly, there was a conversation at Manpilez HQ last summer about where Hask would go if he left Stade. Given the non-events at Adams Park since, there’s not quite so much confidence now that he’d defect to his dear old Wasps. In fact, if we’re to believe the rumblings from Haskell’s camp, every team in the world is currently dropping their car keys in a bowl on his coffee table. My suspicions are that he may take a jaunt south of the equator, but will he be willing to risk fitting the “exceptional circumstances” bill post-World Cup to jeopardize his England career? When the decision is made, expect to hear about it. A lot. With sponsorship.
Another departure that hasn’t surprised us is that of Mauro Bergamasco, who has been with the club since 2004. While he and younger brother and former team mate Mirco celebrated a championship win both then and in 2007, the past few years have been more about the graft than the glory. Mirco seems to be going from strength to strength since leaving Stade, having had a great debut season with Racing Metro and of course, with his heroic performance in Italy’s win over France in the Six Nations. Mauro, meanwhile, spent most of last season out of action following an injury and subsequent surgery on his shoulder. It’s safe to assume the older Bergamasco will have his sights set on a trip to New Zealand come the autumn, which may very well be his last RWC and we’re hedging our bets that club-wise, a return to the homeland may be on the cards, with Treviso being a likely prospect.
… in with the new
Other players avoiding an acid-hued brain-vomit of a kit next season include Juan Leguizamon, Hugo Southwell and Ollie Phillips, but what of the newcomers? Paul Sackey announced his arrival by sporting a very unsubtle neon pink sock alongside his Barbarians kit in the game against England on 29 May and with a wealth of experience in French rugby behind him, will be a welcome addition to the squad alongside Toulon team mate Felipe Contempi. Having a former All Black in the shape of Byron Kelleher and Wallabies centers Morgan Turinui and Paul Warick thrown into the mix isn’t going to do any harm, either.
Stick or twist…
Then there are those players who will remain, including lock Tom Palmer, arguably the stand out performer for England in this year’s Six Nations. Consider his poor wife, Helen, however, who faces at least another year of non-French speaking misery in a Paris suburb without even the light relief of baking cock-adorned cakes for Haskell and Phillips.
Current captain Sergio Parisse has made no noises about moving as of yet and although he’ll be absent for the World Cup in the early part of next season, his apparently God-like presence (calm down, Stuart Barnes) will boost the squad if he’s still on the scene.
The biggest question mark, however, currently hangs over Matthieu Bastareaud. While Stade Francais are insisting he’ll remain for the duration of his contract, Mourad Boudjellal, chairman of Bastareaud’s desired destination of Toulon, has taken the oh so subtle Marc Lievremont approach to courting the media by claiming the center is depressed to the point that he is pyschologically unable to stay chez Guazzini.
How is it that a soap opera about French rugby hasn’t been written yet?
A brave new world…
If there’s one massive positive to take from all this, it’s that Stade Francais are well versed in phoenix-from-the-ashes tactics. In fact, typically controversial news that a peculiarly random financial saviour from Montreal has dragged them out of the red means that they have avoided administrative relegation and there are also hopes that the recent return of Bernard Laporte may see him turn the tide for Stade as he did so dramatically in the 1990s. While coaching duties remain with Michael Cheika, there will be a lot of expectation on Laporte in the role of administrator to perform a similar, if not more impressive overhaul and set Stade Francais back on track. It would seem that, for the time being, pink is not dead.
Words by Anna