Friday 20 September 2019

Labit admits Imhoff back in frame for place on wing

Racing Metro 92 wing Juan Imhoff. Photo: Getty Images
Racing Metro 92 wing Juan Imhoff. Photo: Getty Images
David Kelly

David Kelly

Racing 92 coach Laurent Labit has hinted that Puma flyer Juan Imhoff could stake a late claim to feature in next weekend's Champions Cup final in Bilbao against Leinster.

And if does so, the presence of the Argentinian speedster will send a few shivers down the spines of Irish supporters following his role in the 2015 World Cup defeat of the Irish and their collection of Leinster stars.

Imhoff is jostling with Marc Andreu for Labit's affections and his brace of tries in the shadow side's 42-13 dismissal of Agen on Saturday may force the coach's hand.

He confirmed he has already decided which winger will start the game but he will not reveal his decision until later this week.

"Juan is a great competitor. He was disappointed because he had trouble finding his best level at times this year," Labit said.

"In a part of his head, he thought he would return to Argentina for the summer tour last time and he was disappointed when that didn't go his way.

"A year from the World Cup, he nevertheless understood that good performances with Racing will probably change the opinion of the Argentine coaches.

"I would like to have these selection problems in all the positions but we must remember that we have earned another week off after Bilbao ahead of the play-offs so we will need everyone."

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influential Labit has already lost influential scrum-half Maxime Machenaud as well as the inspirational hooker Dimitri Szarzewski ahead of the final.

"We are already looking to the Bilbao final. A group of players had stayed at Plessis-Robinson to work," he added.

"Starting Monday, we will begin to look at the Leinster game until Wednesday. We will then go to Bilbao on Thursday where we will represent French rugby with the greatest seriousness and determination possible."

Luke McGrath is likely to be fit after missing the semi-final win against Scarlets but the news is less encouraging for Fergus McFadden.

Rhys Ruddock and Jordi Murphy are also expected to shrug off knocks as full-back Rob Kearney praised the influence of Australian import Scott Fardy.

"The most impressive thing about Scott is off the field, coaching and mentoring the younger guys," he said. "It is a massive credit to him."

"It is so important that the club signs these quality foreigners, because I don't think James Ryan would be the player he has been this season without Scott Fardy helping him along," added out-half Johnny Sexton.

"Those back-row guys, he coaches them. He's had a huge impact on the group."

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