This is something I wanted to touch on several weeks ago, but never had the chance to do so with the Rugby World Cup going on. In any case, it isn't too late with the lower leagues just getting underway and Pro D2 still very early in.
I'd like to know which two clubs you believe will be promoted to the Pro D2 this season. I've added some early favorites, but if you believe that another club has a chance, select other and list your choice(s) by name.
I'd also like to touch on the subject of rugby fédérale a little more this season, so for those of you that are unfamiliar, I'm going to cover some interesting stories to get you up to date on the future of rugby union in the country. I know some members here are familiar with lower league French rugby and I would really enjoy their contributions as well.
To start things off, I'm going to cover Racing Club de Strasbourg—the club has been through some major financial difficulty over the past years with their football division continually sinking like a gunned down ship. Even with the rugby division in tact and climbing, though slowly, it was thought that RC Strasbourg would scrap rugby from their ranks, and they did, unfortunately. Or is it really unfortunate after all?
Racing Club de Strasbourg Rugby (l), new logo for Rugby Club Strasbourg (r)
Racing Club de Strasbourg Rugby has officially become Rugby Club Strasbourg. This identity change comes at the cost of having to fight for their own survival financially, which they seem to be doing well with at the moment. As it turns out the same can't be said for Racing Club de Strasbourg, which unsurprisingly went bankrupt over the summer, forcing the football team into the fifth division of French amateur football along with the likes of Grenoble and others that have fallen on hard times.
Rugby Club Strasbourg currently play in the third division of France, which is the top amateur division in the country known as Fédérale 1. With the league shrinking from 48 clubs to 40 due to travel cost conflicts, it actually makes for an even tighter and more competitive league.
Currently situated in the northern pool (Groupe 1) and only four matches into the season, Strasbourg has already been far more impressive than the last where the club narrowly avoided relegation. Although they only have one win, their opening two matches were solid losing efforts against the two superior clubs in the pool, Lille and Massy. Strasbourg went on to win their third match by destroying newly promoted Boulogne-Billancourt and narrowly lost to a fairly equal club in Mâcon.
Their best player is scrum half Alexandre Ducrozet. At 24-years-old, he's quite a consistent kicker and will be relied upon heavily to get his club through matches. Outside center Alexandre Bonjean and wingers Guillaume Kriegel and Czech international Václav Jursík will also become important parts of their offense if they want to survive in a pool that is becoming stronger each season. Kriegel can support Ducrozet when it comes to kicking, but his ability is only equal to some of the best amateurs available, unlike the scrum half who could easily kick for a club in Pro D2 or better.
With an annual spending budget of a little over 1 € million, Strasbourg will be able to stabilize themselves within the league and possibly challenge for promotion within four or five years. Along with Lille, they are northern France's greatest hopes for quality rugby (outside of Paris) in the professional ranks down the road.