Friday, October 7, 2011

Argentine players in France - Perpignan

The Union Sportive des Arlequins Perpignanais as it is known in French or Unió esportiva Arlequins de Perpinyà as it is known in Catalan is rarely referred to as either in English. The common name for the teasm is USAP or simply Perpignan. It is based in the city of Perpignan in the departémente of Pyrénées-Orientales on the Mediteranean coast near the border from Spain. The departémente is part of the Languedoc-Roussillon whose capital is Top 14 rivals, Montpellier. The clubs colors of red and yellow are a reflection of the ties to Catalan and the club successfully hosted a Heineken Cup Quarter Final vs Toulon in Barcelona at the Olympic Stadium earlier in 2011. Perpignan is a well supported team with the Stade Aimé Giral having been recently upgraded to accomodate crowds of 17,500 and there are to be future matches moved to Barcelona as the marketability of French rugby continues to increase.

The club is an over achiever in the professional era but is showing no signs of changing. For the 2011-2012 season Perpignan is to be on a budget of €15.3 million, putting it in nineth out of the fourteen teams in the French Top 14. The only teams with lower budgets are Agen, Brive, Castres and the two new teams this season - Bordeaux and Lyon. Perpignan has had tremendous success due in large part to the capabaility of producing local players. The greater metropolitan area of Perpignan has a population of close to 300,000 and is regarded as being rugby mad. The club has a colorful history, packed with success including seven Rugby Championship titles as well as being runners-up on nine occassions and also finishing second in the 2003 Heineken Cup. Perpignan´s most recent success came in 2009 as the club were French Champions for the first time since 1955.

The club has produced plenty of French internationals including four who are playing for France in the ongoing Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. Tighthead prop, Nicolas Mas is from Perpignan as is centre David Marty. Hooker Guilhem Guirado is from Céret, a small town located near Perpignan while the clubs fourth French Rugby World Cup representative, inside centre Maxime Mermoz, is from Èpinal near Nancy in Northeastern France. Perpignan also has a handful of other players at the World Cup with Marius Tincu and Ovidiu Toniţa playing for Romania, Kisi Pulu playing for Tonga and new recruit James Hook for Wales. It was to have Henry Tuilagi playing for Samoa but he has missed on on selection due to injury. There is also a Puma as after a decade of service at the club, Rimas Álvarez Kairelis is to retire from rugby in december of this year. Álvarez Kairelis retired from international rugby in 2009 having played for Argentina in two Rugby World Cup´s as a vital unit in the secondrow. The 37 year old has been a key perfomer for Perpignan during his ten years with the club and still has games left in him before he officially stops playing.

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