The final stages gave rise to no surprises. Castres, leader of the regular season, will face his runner-up, Montpellier, in the final of the Top 14, Friday June 24 at 9 p.m. at the Stade de France (live on France 2 and france.tv). Franceinfo: sport gives you five good reasons to spend your evening watching a game that promises to be tough.
These are the two best teams in the regular season
Experience against defence. This is how the final clash of the 2021-2022 Top 14 season could be summed up between Castres Olympique (CO) and Montpellier Hérault rugby (MHR). With 17 wins in 26 games during the regular season, the CO has the greatest number of successes, against 15 for its opponent. In the standings, only two points separated the two clubs. In the semi-finals, Castres dismissed Toulouse (24-18), while Montpellier overcame Bordeaux-Bègles (19-10).
The Castres are used to matches under tension, and know how to outsmart their opponents to better score tries. The players of the MHR, with a steel defense, also have the reputation of taking advantage of the slightest opportunities left by the opponents. In short, the duel should be close and open.
Castres is a regular at the finals
Five times champion of France, the Tarn club will play its fourth final in ten years on Friday. “Over the last decade, I don’t remember another modest city regularly in the final stages”, declared a few days ago to franceinfo: sport Pierre-Yves Revol, president of the CO. The city of 42,000 inhabitants is indeed the smallest of the Top 14. It has made its club a pillar of the local economy.
A particularly mobilized public will therefore be present at the Stade de France to support the Blue and Whites. The atmosphere was already there in Nice in the semi-finals, with no less than 12 fan buses chartered by the club. Much appreciated player support: “They give everything. Sometimes we can’t get along and communicate with each other. But I prefer that to an empty atmosphere”confided Benjamin Urdapilleta after the match.
Montpellier can get their first national title
They may have won the European Challenge in 2021, the Montpellier residents have still not engraved the name of their club on the Brennus shield. Twice finalists, they are still in pursuit of this coronation, boosted by a frequent presence at the top of the rankings for ten years. Disappointed with their tenth place last season, Philippe Saint-André’s men were able to raise their heads.
The MHR, founded in 1986, remains a “little youngster” compared to its opponent, established since 1906. Returned to the first division in 2003, the Hérault club also owes its rise to the Top 14 to the investments of businessman Mohed Altrad , club president and major shareholder since 2011.
This is the revenge of the 2018 final
This is not the first time that the two teams have faced each other for the title of champion of France. In 2018, this last act had largely turned in favor of the Castres, who had won 29-13. The opener of Castres Benjamin Urdapilleta, expected on the lawn Friday evening, had then scored 19 of the 29 points of his training.
The Montpellier residents therefore have revenge to take, while the statistics lean in favor of the CO. Since the establishment of the final stages in the Top 14, during the 2010-2011 season, the two teams have faced each other six times (dams, semi-finals and finals combined), with four successes for Castres against two for the MHR.
This will be Guilhem Guirado’s last game
The former strongman of the France team (74 selections) will put away the crampons after this final. The hooker dreams of snagging one last title on a list that includes a Champions Cup in 2015 (with Toulon) and a Challenge Cup victory in 2021. Captain of the Blues 32 times between 2016 and 2019, he has never won an international title with the XV of France, he who evolved during a slack period for tricolor rugby.
Side Top 14, he won a single title of champion of France, in 2009 with Perpignan. Unfortunate finalist three times, he intends to end his career in apotheosis.