Bet: Perpignan -2.5
USAP dominated the Pro D2 last season. The Catalans finished first in the regular season with 5 points ahead of Montauban and 9 ahead of Grenoble. The Perpignanese had impressed the commentators by their attacks. With 919 points, the USAP had by far the best attack in the championship.
This summer, USAP managed to retain all of its key players while at the same time strengthening itself. The main recruits are the Irish international opener Paddy Jackson (Ulster), the centre Afusia Taumoepeau (Castres), the lock Masalosalo Tutaia (Pau) and the winger Wandile Mjekevu (Toulouse). The halfback from Grenoble, David Mélé, is also back in his old club!
The XV which will start this afternoon is close to the one of last season. Three recruits join the starting XV (Tutaia, Jacson and Taumoepeau), two others are on the bench (Leiataua and Sione). This team is very powerful up front. In fact, she even puts a player like Shaun Eru on the bench. In the back, it goes fast and it’s explosive! The Sang et Or have a few absentees like Seilala Lam, lock Yohan Vivalda, David Mélé and winger Wandile Mjekevu.
After a difficult season when the Stade Français came close to relegation, Parisians put the big guns on the transfer market. Internationals Yoann Maestri and Gaël Fickou have joined the club. Biarritz youngsters Alex Arrate and Kylan Hamdaoui also signed. Other flashy names like Talalelei Gray (Toulouse), Piet Van Zyl (London Irish), Malietoa Hingano (Clermont) and Nicolas Sanchez (Jaguares) came to Paris this summer! At the same time, Paris has kept all its key players!
The Stade Français has also acquired a new staff. Heyneke Meyer joins the club as a sports director with some of the club’s most prominent deputies: Pieter De Villiers, the club’s former emblematic player in the 2000s, and Paul O’Connell, Ireland’s mythical lock.
For this first game of the season, the coaches called only two recruits: Piet Van Zyl and Kylan Hamdaoui. It must be said that Paris has some missing players. Winger Djibril Camara, the hooker Laurent Sempéré and the third-row Alberts, Burban and Tala Gray are injured. Internationals Gaël Fickou, Yoann Maestri and Paul Gabrillagues are forced to rest under the new agreement between the FFR and the LNR. Nicolas Sanchez will not arrive until December.
As a result, the start XV is very light, especially in the back row. Youngster Ryan Chapuis is promoted to the starting line-up. The bench is also weakened with Julien Delbouis who will know his first game sheet.
Perpignan have prepared to be ready for their first match, while the Stade Français are aiming for Bordeaux next week. The USAP has made a preparation to be ready from the beginning of the season while Paris will increase in power until the possible final phases. The Parisian team is very similar to the one that struggled last season. The bench is weak and Stade Français should suffer in the second half. Stadium will be full. I see a great victory for Perpignan.