A French countdown
07 April, 2011
|Fiji and Toulon ace centre - Gabirieli Lovobalavu. |
The final sprint for the line as the climax to the 2011 season approaches in France with the Heineken Cup, the league champions and promotion and relegation still all in the balance. So it’s 5 to 1 – the numbers that count. FIVE
is the number of teams which will be involved in the promotion places from 'Pro 2' to 'Top 14'.
Lyon, barring a catastrophe, should secure the top spot and automatic promotion after their win against second place Albi last Sunday with Waisale Suka setting up the only try of the game - a piercing 30 metre run from the half-way line through the opposition defence, and Vinaya Waka seeing 'yellow'.
Despite this defeat Albi are guaranteed a place in the play-offs along with Jone Daunivucu's Grenoble.
Amongst those chasing the remaining two positions are Mont de Marsan, for whom Timoci Matanavou
showed why Toulouse have signed him for next season. Player of the week in 'Pro 2', an outstanding performance included two tries, one of which was a solo 70 metre sprint, as if no one else was on the pitch as he went past at least half a dozen attempted tackles. Pure Genius, seeing is believing.
Just off the pace and still with a chance to qualify are Alusio Buto's Auch. He looks certain to be at Grenoble next season, whatever happens, after a '3 star' game; FOUR
is the number of 'Top 14' teams playing against each other in this week-end’s Heineken Cup.
On Saturday Perpignan is up against Gabirieli Lovobalavu’s Toulon side. Lovobalavu, has been leading the attack for the 'rouge and noir' (red and blacks), as he showed against Paris last Saturday with a three star performance
. Perpignan have no Fijians to call upon. Incidentally Lovobalavu is the only player remaining form the Toulon squad that won promotion two years ago.
The other match on Sunday sees Toulouse v Biarritz, Rupeni Caucau and Filimoni Delasau squaring up to Ilikena Bolakoro. The former two should be extending their existing contracts. Both games are being played in SPAIN. THREE
is the number of 'Top 14'confrontations remaining prior to the eliminations. The first two in the table receive the winners of the play-offs between teams third to sixth.
At the moment that's Toulouse and the Racing of Bobo 'et al', against Kini Murumurivalu's ASM Clermont and the Castres of Seremaia Bai, along with Toulon and Biarritz. TWO
is the number of teams already knowing their fate.
Bourgoin, Nemani Nadolo's old team, condemned to Pro 2, and St. Etienne to the amateur ranks of Fed 1 after only one season amongst the 'big boys'.
For Fatafehi, it will be in the other direction, with 'LOU'. The other 'automatic' relegation place in the top flight looks destined to be La Rochelle with Norman Ligairi and Seru Rabeni.
In Pro 2 it's a contest between Colomiers (Vereniki Goneva and Malakai Bakaniceva will both be playing at the next level up) and Dax, who have no less than four Fijians in their squad, including Neumi Nanuku and Ratu Naisa Narukutabua. There are four matches to go.
There are also TWO all French games in the Amlin Challenge Cup this weekend (European rugby's equivalent of the BSP Farebrother-Sullivan Challenge)
, ASM Clermont against La Rochelle and Stade Francais, one of the few clubs (along with Perpignan above) without a Fijian, up against Montpellier, for whom Sakiusa Matadigo had an excellent game last Saturday. ONE
and only one winner at the end the day; joy and celebrations for the players and supporters concerned on the one side, and a feeling of despair and what might have been on the other whatever the competition may be.
So hopefully lots of good things to report about Fijian performances next week.
As for last week's questions, how did you do?
1. Manoa Vosawai, currently playing for Treviso of Italy in the Celtic league, having arrived there in 2004.
2. Seta Tuilevuka of Montpellier, where he's also extending his contract, having arrived last year, after playing in Las Vegas. His one cap for the US was against Portugal, also in 2010.
3. Isa Nacewa against Scotland in the 2003 RWC, as a last minute replacement. Nacewa is now with Ireland's Leinster.
To continue the numbers theme of this week's article, here are four 'teasers' based on European Fijians:
1. How many tries have Matanvou and Daunivucu in total so far this season - up to 04.04.11?
2. How many Fijians have played in both the Top 14 and the Premier division of England this season?
3. The names of French Top 14 clubs without a Fijian in their squad? (There are currently 3).
4. The number of Fijians under contract in the Top 14 and Pro 2, registered and eligible to play this week-end?
The answers to the first three can be found in articles up to 07.04.2011.
The last, requires an educated guess or a bit of research, but again a rough figure has already been mentioned in a previous newsletter.
Send your answers in to firstname.lastname@example.org and you could win a signed Fiji Rugby jersey.