Thursday 22 February 2018

Racing need a leader – and they have come to the right place

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

JONATHAN SEXTON has thrown his lot in with Racing Metro, but what sort of club is the Ireland fly-half joining?

The traditional Parisian club, Racing were formed in 1882, but merged with US Metro in 2001 to form the club we know today.

Racing were traditionally an aristocratic club, famed for their eccentricities and their players played the final of the 1987 French Championship final with pink bow-ties on and drank champagne at half-time.

Professional rugby saw both Racing and Metro fall on hard times and both clubs had watched as upstarts Stade Francais claimed the rugby spotlight in the French capital.

However, under owner Jacky Lorenzetti, who invested millions, they built a squad that first secured promotion to the Top 14 in 2009, before challenging for honours.

Sexton will rub shoulders with the cream of world talent in the Top 14, with Toulon snapping up a host of South African World Cup winners including Bryan Habana, and there is no shortage of talent within his own dressing-room.

Racing have attempted to merge a squad of big-name signings with up-and-coming French talent and the €750,000-a-year fly-half will play alongside Argentinian maestro Juan Martin Hernandez, France hooker Dimitri Szarzewski, winger Benjamin Fall, England's Olly Barkley and Italian winger Mirco Bergamasco next season.

Racing have big ambitions, with Lorenzetti this year outlining plans to move to a multi-purpose 32,000 capacity stadium in the suburb of La Defense called Arena 92 by 2014.

Having won three European Cups with Leinster, Sexton is seen as the man to help Racing take the next step and claim a Top 14 title.

They have reached the past three play-offs without claiming the title, while they have yet to get out of the pool stages in Europe.

It's hoped Sexton will deliver results and bring glory back to the fallen Parisian giants – he has a fine supporting cast to do it.

Irish Independent

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