|Mosese Ratuvou helped Lyon gain promotion to the Top 14 in France. |
The rugby season in Europe is approaching its end with only one more club final to go – but does the season actually ever stop? There are already a series of internationals matches lined up for the Barbarians, there’s the Churchill Cup and down in the South Pacific they’re about to start the Pacific Nations Cup while SANZAR’s Tri Nations is not too far away and then when you think it’s all done and dusted the 'friendlies' begin, in preparation for the Rugby World Cup.
On a club level, for many, pre-season training for the 2011-12 season starts in a few weeks. Such is the life of a professional rugby player now-a-days.
So a quick look back at how Fijians fared in France, starting with Pro D2, and my choice of the top three players. Lyon won automatic promotion to the Top 14, with a little help from Mosese Ratavou, Vinaya Waka and Waisele Sukanaveita, who showed why many rate the dual Fiji international (league and union) as a real star. They have all been retained next season.
No luck in the play-offs for the other promotion spot, for either Jone Daunivucu, 12 tries in 21 games, or Timoci Matanavou, as Bordeaux-Begles, who finished 5th and some 15 points behind Jone's Grenoble, secured the second spot. The 'Begley Boys' have now just six weeks to put together a team capable of competing at the next level up; so don't be surprised if a few 'Islanders' join their ranks.
At the other end of the table, it was Colomiers and St Etienne who filled the last two places, but the former may yet be thrown a life-line, as Narbonne's cash debt of 1.2 million Euros has seen them having to appeal against the financial relegation imposed by the powers to be. If unsuccessful, they will be the fifth professional French club, in as many years, to be forced to play at a lower level because of insolvency.
Where does that leave those Fijian players contracted to these, and other Pro D2 clubs? Colomiers' Vereneki Goneva, and Malakai Bakaniceva are both heading to Tarbes, and not Biarritz and Bayonne,as previously reported.
Jone Tawake is already heading from Narbonne to Toulon, leaving Sunia Koto and Sionasa Vunisa uncertain of their futures. The other 'transfers' are as follows:
Aix-en-Provence: Seva Rokobaro to Toulon (Top 14).
Auch: Aloisio Butonidualevu to Grenoble; Joseva Domolailai (younger brother of Isoa Domolailai who plays for Tarbes) in from Bobigny (Fed1).
Aurillac: Dan Baleinadogo to Mont de Marsan joining William Ryder; Villame Maya to Nevers (Fed 1); Fero Lasagvibau retiring; Marika Vakacegu in from Sale Sharks (England).
Carcassonne: In come Isake Katonibau and Joeli Lutumailagi.
Lyon: Sisa Koyamaibole from Sale Sharks.
Alipate Fatafehi from St. Etienne. (Again a question as to if he is Tongan or Fijian? The French press seem to think he’s Fijian.)
Things could yet change as the recruitment period continues.
And so to the Rugbymarc PRO D2 'Palme D'Or'. (Golden Palm). TIMOCI MATANAVOU. The Mont de Marsan winger has had an incredible season, 19 tries in 28 games with 21 'starts'. Nearly 2100 minutes on the pitch, (75 minutes per game). He is now heading to Toulouse to test his skills amongst the best in France.
Seva Rokobaro's outstanding form since the new year, not only finds him going to Toulon, but also helped Aix away from relegation. 30 hours played, participating in every game, not only sees him take the Pro D2 'Silver Palm', but also my player to be the surprise choice in the RWC squad (If released by Toulon).
'The Bronze Palm' is shared between two Fijians. In his first season in professional rugby in France. Thirty matches played, 8 tries, and only 120 minutes out of a possible 2400 on the bench.
Congratulations to Aloisio Butonidualevu. My other choice is Vinaya Waka, often unsung, and in his 4th season at Lyon. He also played over 30 hours in total and held the backline together, allowing that top 14 promotion.
Hopefully the break all players, not involved in world cup preparations, are now enjoying will allow them to recharge their batteries after a long, hard season.
For the players of Montpellier and Toulouse, that will have to wait until at least next Sunday, as the two teams compete for the French Championship.
Next week that result, the Top 14 'Palms', whose going where and what happened across the channel 'last season'.
Marc @ Rugbymarc.