Montpellier, from the edge of the abyss to the summit of French rugby
“Return to grace” we had titled to qualify Montpellier’s comeback at the forefront of French rugby before the semi-final won against Union Bordeaux-Bègles. “A new era for Montpellier?”, MHR opener Paolo Garbisi was asked after his team’s success in the Top 14 final against Castres on Friday night. “I hope”, he launched. Because by winning the club’s first Bouclier de Brennus, the foals of Philippe Saint-André have entered into its history.
The conclusion of a long way of the cross on which few people would have bet a few months ago. “When I made the decision to come to Montpellier last summer, I couldn’t imagine such an end. It’s incredible, I can’t realize how much what we’ve done is huge”smiled the half of opening. “We didn’t have a title, we come from nowhere. 18 months ago, we were second to last. And in 18 months, we won two titles”supported his coach a few minutes later (Montpellier won the European Challenge in 2021).
I felt the players smiling, determined. I had told them before the match that I knew that today, the hungry people, it was going to be us. Tonight we were cold, serene, ready to fight.Philippe Saint-André, coach of Montpellier
in the post-match mixed zone
However, to hear them, the Héraultais are not so surprised. Paolo Garbisi’s teammates seem to be driven by an unfailing confidence, forged by great solidarity. “Since December, we’ve had ten games unbeaten, we’ve been first in the Top 14 for a long time. Maybe there weren’t many people waiting for us, but we never lost that confidence. We remained united. It’s our strength. We live very well together”he abounded. “For truffles, we didn’t do too badly”added, teasingly, Geoffrey Doumayrou.
Values that previous seasons, marked (in 2020-2021) by a place of relegation with which the Montpellier residents have long flirted, have shaped. “We went from laughter to tears, from tears to laughteragreed the team manager of the MHR training center Mathieu Austruy leaving the Stade de France. The years of misfortune have brought everyone together.” For him, even more recently, the victory in Nice against UBB – against whom Montpellier did not start as favorites – was a founder.
All highlight above all the victory of a group: that of the players of course, but also of a staff, a president and an audience. “I am very happy for Mohed Altrad (President of MHR) because he has been criticized a lot, but he has invested a lot of his time and money for almost eleven years. Calling me two and a half years ago, I had to do it, to get me back in the game”greets Philippe Saint-André.
“I’m happy for the players because they are exceptional in their state of mindcontinues the former coach of the Blues. There are guys who stop like Guilhem Guirado, Fufu (Fulgence Ouedraogo)young players, players who have been in difficulty, guys from Pro D2 like (Alexander) Becognee. There is an incredible osmosis and I have a staff of 22 people who work in unison. We can’t wait to commune with the public tomorrow.”
There is no doubt that he will celebrate the title with dignity with the others, but Paolo Garbisi already has his head turned towards the future. “Now we have to try to defend this title in the best possible way next year.” A new chapter to write.
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