Ahead of this weekend’s Amlin Challenge Cup Final between Leinster and Stade Francais, I decided to take a look at the all singing, all dancing showbiz French rugby side that divides opinion both at home and abroad. Historically considered a heavyweight, Stade have had a few difficult years but what can Leinster expect? Below is a topline blaggers guide for all you pub pro’s.
Name: Stade Français Club Athlétique des Sports Généraux
Home Ground: Stade Jean-Bouin/ Stade Sebastien Charléty/Stade Francais
History: Having won 13 French championships and a couple of domestic cup competitions, Stade have pedigree but can be considered the ‘also rans’ of European Rugby. Heineken Cup runners up in 2001 and 2005, and Amlin Cup runners up in 2011, Stade have a history of not following through. A lack of consistency and volatility that in the past has been reflected in other areas of the club. The financial crisis in 2011 which saw most of the squad sold being a case in point.
The Coach: Richard Pool Jones replaced Michael Cheika, a man well known by all Leinster fans, in May 2012. The jury is still out on his coaching career with the club but he is well regarded by the fans. Jones played with Biarritz and Stade so knows the French game. Serving as Vice-President with Stade he reportedly played a central part in brokering a deal that saved the club from bankruptcy, administration and relegation in 2011.
The Captain: Sergio Parisse, the talismanic Italian number eight, has been with Stade since 2005. Irish rugby fans and indeed the Leinster players know him well. Despite Italy enjoying their best 6 Nations to date in 2013, Parisse has had a mixed year. Most notably he was banned during the 6 Nations for abusing a referee and sums up what Leinster can expect. Ability, aggression, power and an unpredictable nature. He is Stade’s key player.
The Squad: Given the difficult few years the club has had and indifferent domestic campaign this year, it is hard to argue that this is a legendary Stade team. Parisse aside, they do however possess some notable players including Pape, Rodriguez, Porical and Dupuy. Leinster fans should keep an eye out for Stan Wright and Felipe Contemponi who is due to retire at the end of the season. Jerome Fillol might have featured, but his inability to not spit on players rules him out.
This Season: Stade finished this season in 10th, a very poor return and indicative of the on-going internal management issues the club faces. With 12 wins, 13 defeats and one draw, 2012/2013 was the very definition of a stop start season. Stade showed an ability to put points on the board, with a tally of 578 points that was comparable to the top tier teams however with a paperweight defence they shipped 691 points, the third worst defence in the league.
Most recently they received a good old fashioned thrashing from Biarritz (52-17) in the Top 14, a team that Leinster disposed of with ease. Although you can argue that Biarritz did not turn up against Leinster in the semi-final, the result is telling. It is reasonable to assume that Stade will struggle to beat an in-form Leinster that is firing on all fronts, offensively and defensively, and generally speaking a better team. With a temperamental nature and effectively playing as the away team in the RDS, it is hard to see Stade pulling off what would be a significant shock.
2013 may prove a season too early for Stade but with the confirmed signings of Morne Steyn, Heinke van der Merwe and Digby Ioane keep an eye out for them next season.
Match Prediction: I am a cautious sort but I will go out on a limb and say Leinster will win by three scores. If Leinster put some daylight between the sides in the first quarter it will be hard to see Stade rally.