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Opening Season Analysis


M Two One

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<div align="center">Rugby Pro D2: A Quick Look</div>

Is there any surprise which teams are sitting at the top of the table this early? Not really. Toulon have won the league? Not so fast my friends! Mont-de-Marsan and Agen are having a quiet, but stellar opening to their season and should compete through the season for the guaranteed promotion slot. Both teams have slightly better defensive numbers then Toulon, but aren't even close to matching their major competitor's offensive crunch. Are these the only three competing heavily though? Not by any means.

Don't forget about La Rochelle. They may be a small club, but like Bourgoin has produced a number of great players in French history including arguably the country's current best scrum-half Jean-Baptiste Élissalde. They were competitive for promotion last season and only fell in the final match to Dax. Racing Métro 92 should also be within the top five down the stretch. They have signed numerous players including Sireli Bobo, Carlo Festuccia and Agustín Pichot to help their push for promotion. So far they've been playing fairly well, but will have to better themselves on defense if they want to move up in this very competitive second division.

Other teams to look out for are Grenoble, Pau, Béziers and Narbonne. Grenoble have made a flying start to their season. Last time around they were at the bottom struggling to stay alive. They have made some changes during the summer and obviously these moves have paid off already. Pau are past Challenge Cup winners and will be looking to regain a spot in the Top 14. In my opinion though they will need more time to move up over the other teams, but should finish fairly strong and contend next season for promotion with their great youth after they've matured a bit more. Béziers and Narbonne should be playing better at this early stage, but the season has a long way to go before we can count them out.

The only club in a hole are Blagnac, who have nearly an all amateur talent team. They played well in Fédérale 1 last season, but struggled down the stretch and with such horrible play this early I can't see them crawling back to stay alive. They've been a major disaster on defense along with Tarbes. Tarbes should finish somewhere between 9 and 12 this season though. They have the talent to keep themselves afloat through a long season. Here's hoping for Lannemezan to gain promotion to Rugby Pro D2 to rekindle the two cities' heated rivarly!

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To those of you unfamiliar with this, past three-time Top 14 champions Stadoceste Tarbais merged with the original Lannemezan to create a powerhouse club years ago. The club was named Lannemezan Tarbes Hautes-Pyrénées, LT65 for short. It failed and the club severed ties with the town of Lannemezan to rename itself Tarbes Pyrénées Rugby. Lannemezan's club was reinvented a year later and dominated back from the lowest depths of amateur French rugby to compete in Fédérale 1, the highest ranked amateur division of French Rugby Union in a short amount of time. It has quietly become a great rugby story. If Lannemezan are to succeed in gaining promotion you can bet Tarbes won't be looking forward to the first derby day!

Looking good so far: Agen, Grenoble, Mont-de-Marsan and Toulon

Look out for: La Rochelle and Racing Métro

More or less?: Aurillac, Béziers, Lyon, Narbonne and Pau

Somewhere in the middle: Limoges, Oyonnax and Union Bordeaux-Bègles

Very disappointing so far: Blagnac and Tarbes

Hopefully you've enjoyed my analysis and short bits of info here and there. I'd like to end with my predictions for the two teams gaining promotion to Rugby Pro D2 next season. Colomiers are dominating in Fédérale 1 and Lannemezan are right behind them in the same group (5). I expect both to make it up unless they face one another before the final. Looking forward to the next write-up around 12 matches into the season.
Where did I write that they can't win it? The season looks to be very competitive.

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