Saturday, May 18, 2013

Chilean Sergio Valdes to start Pro d2 Final

Sunday´s French second division final in Bordeaux between former Top 14 clubs Brive and Pau will be a match of special interest for Chilean rugby followers. Starting for Pau in the secondrow will be 34 year old Sergio Valdes. The veteran Condor has been playing his rugby in France for well over a decade. He has played in both the Pro d2 and the Top 14 for clubs including Stade Aurillacois near Clermont-Ferrand, Racing Métro near Paris, Auch in the South West and since 2011 for anpther South Western club, Pau. 

The Chilean international did not participate in Rugby World Cup Qualification last month due to him instead opting to remain in France for the crunch final rounds of the regular season in which Pau was pushing to earn a place in the Pro d2 Semi Final´s. Indeed Pau succeeded and after defeating La Rochelle in a fierce and physical Semi Final the club is now eighty minutes away from a return to the Top 14 after seven years of playing in the Pro d2. Its assignment is tough one against last seasons thirteenth placed Top 14 club, Brive. The neutral location of the final means neither Pau nor Brive will have home advantage and the choice of the Stade Chaban Delmas in Bordeaux for the final was spot on. A full house is expected, meaning a larger crowd will be in attendance that both Semi Final crowds for the Aviva Premiership Semi Finals played last weekend in England. 

Now in the twilight of his career Valdes has the chance to see  Pau return to the French top flight. The 2000 Amlin Challenge Cup winners have been struggling to win promotion back to the Top 14 as the changing nature of French professional rugby continues to advantage teams from outside of the hot bed of South West France. The region is increasingly responsible for teams dropping from the Top 14 while the majority of teams rising from the Pro d2 to the Top 14 continue to be from outside of South Western France despite the region being home to the vast majority of clubs. Since Rugby World Cup 2007 five of the sx winners have been from outside the South West - Toulon in 2008, Racing Métro in 2009, Lyon in 2011, Grenoble in 2012 and Oyonnax in 2013. The one exception being the 2010 championship winning Agen who have been relgeated back to the Pro d2 and placing thirteenth in the 2012-2013 Top 14. 

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