Top 14: Montpellier, the return to grace

A bit like Castres Olympique, victorious at Stade Toulouse on Friday, he learned to move forward masked. After a succession of disappointing seasons, where we heard more about Montpellier for non-sporting matters involving its president Mohed Altrad and the boss of the French Rugby Federation, Bernard Laporte, here is the MHR back in the final stages of Top 14 Four years after their last semi-final, Montpellier challenge Union Bordeaux-Bègles, in Nice, on Saturday June 18. The result of a season synonymous with rebirth for the Héraultais.

A comeback which was not obvious at the start of the season. If the 2021 coronation in the Challenge Cup – little sister of the Champions Cup – had softened hearts somewhat after a poor tenth place in the championship, the summer break seemed to have cut off the legs of Philippe Saint-André’s men. The players of the former coach of the XV of France lost five times during the first seven days. Before recovering and chaining a formidable series of seven victories from October to March. “They especially did not want to relive the failure of last season”says Mathieu Austruy, team manager of the MHR training center.

The victory in the European Cup and the failure in the Top 14 experienced last season allowed the creation of a real group. The players have suffered so much from having been almost relegated that they have regained game values, human values, confidence too.

Mathieu Austruy, team manager of the Montpellier training center

at franceinfo: sports

The MHR owes its revival in part to its youth. “There is an alignment of the planets. We are lucky to have a very talented generation, young people from the training center have been integrated, with elders like Ouedraogo, and stars whether French (Willemse) or foreign like Reinach”, exposes the Héraultais. The good results and the “true symbiosis” that we now feel between the players and the staff remind Mathieu, at the club since 2001, of the Galthié years (finalist in 2011, half in 2014, quarter of the European Cup in 2013).

If in the collective imagination, the term “mercenaries” sticks to the skin of this team since the passage of coach and South African world champion Jake White (2014-2017), and the slew of compatriots that he had taken in his suitcase, the club returned to a more local DNA. “The MHR had become a benchmark for players at the end of their careers, big stars who came to seek money. Xavier Garbajosa [limogé en janvier 2021] had cleaned up during his visit. It is also thanks to him if we are there, supports the technician. Today, there are French people, a few stars, but not only, and people from Montpellier like the one we call ‘the little prince’ here, Arthur Vincentsupports the technician. There is exchange, transmission. In terms of cohesion, the arrival of Philippe Saint-André [successeur de Garbajosa] did a lot of good.

The success of the MHR also rests on the shoulders of a few players of great talent. In addition to the needy third line Alexandre Bécognée and the three-quarter international center, Arthur Vincent, the Héraultais were able to count on the activity of the second line of the Blues, Paul Willemse, or even on the vista of his south-af scrum half, Cobus Reinach.

Injured, the last two cities are nevertheless absent for this shock against the UBB. Montpellier nevertheless hopes to continue to dream. He is only one step away, like his opponent of the day, from a final that would allow him to try to get his very first Shield of Brennus.

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