Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Argentina players in France - Lyon

For the first time ever the French Top 14 have a team from the country´s second largest city as Lyon are playing in this seasons competition after winning the 2010-2011 Pro d2. The club is officially known as Lyon Olympique Universitaire but is commonly called LOU or simply Lyon. The club was formed over 100 years ago  in 1896 but has only just arrived in the French Top 14 now as the competition continues to change drastically from small town teams to increasingly larger cities and in more parts of the country than the traditional hot-bed of France´s South West. Lyon´s metropolitan area has an estimated population of 1,757,000 and it is the capital city of the Rhône-Alpes region of France which has the sixth largest economy of any European region. The club is therefore highly likely to go on to become a power should its management be up to the task.

Lyon OU is a two time Champion of France having won the competition in 1932 and 1933 after being runners-up in 1931. The team was unable to compete thereafter and was relegated to France´s second and even third divisions. Lyon OU were in the French third division, the Fédérale ten years ago, which seems highly unplausible but it is true and underlines the extent of the changes that professional rugby has had on the sport in France. Lyon was in the Pro d2 from the 2002-2003 season until the 2010-2011 season and almost won promotiopn to the Top 14 on a number of occassions but lost out to the likes of Albi, Dax, Racin Métro and Toulon. After several years of trying, however, Lyon OU won promotion to the top table of French rugby by finishing top of the table in the 2010-2011 season.

With a similar budget to that of traditional sides Castres and Perpignan, Lyon is well on its way to establishing itself permanently in the Top 14. The clubs annual budget is €14.8 million which , in addition to being very close to Castres and Perpignan, is higher than that of both Agen and Brive as well as Bordeaux-Begles. Lyon is massively advamtaged by being France´s second largest city in that it can play matches at a large stadium. The clubs official home ground is very small as Matmut Stadium has a capacity for a crowd of only 8,000. However, the club has a history of relocating matches to the Stade Gerland in Lyon which has a capacity of 42,000 and has already been used this season with round twos match of Lyon vs Toulouse being played there. The stadium has hosted a number of international matchjes in the past incvluding three games at Rugby World Cup 2007 and the crowds were near capacity for every match depiste none of them being matches between two top sides. All involved lop-sided results but the people of Lyon were nonetheless there in big numbers to watch Australia vs Japan, Argentina vs Georgia and New Zealand vs Portugal.

Lyon has recruited some big name players this season with the biggest name being Argentine international backrower, Juan Manuel Leguizamón who has joined the club from Stade Français. Former English international fullback, Mark van Gisbergen has arrived as has Fijian international backrower Sisa Koyamaibole and South African scrumhalf Ricky Januarie. The club has also signed Arnauld Tchougong of Cameroon as well as the promising secondrower, Arnaud Marchois of Stade Français. Argentine prop Ariel Castellina has left the club to return to Argentina while uncapped Argentine centre, Gabriel Ascárate has been linked with a move to the club. The team is fairly strong but is not strong enough to win the competition this year but should be good enough to avoid relegation. If it is able to then it should go from strength to strength as rugby is popular in the city and the club will benefit tremendously from the city and stadium.

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