The competition was born this season and was not without difficulties with the exclusion of the two rival Russian teams following the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. But the European Rugby Super Cup, which has brought together franchises from seven countries (Russia, Israel, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium and Georgia), will play its first final on Saturday in Lisbon (4pm). The stadium will see training for Lusitanos team Patrice Lajesquet, former coach of Biarritz and assistant Philip Saint-Andre in Team France, and the Black Lions, a Georgian franchisor. Lagisquet has returned to us on this duel and the significance of this new competition.
Are you rediscovering the excitement of your last final as a coach, the Challenge Cup match with Biarritz, in 2012?
(smiling) Oh no, she has nothing to do, it’s not the same circumstances at all! Portugal is still an amateur rugby game. Players are happy to play this final, in their first Super Cup, but it’s a franchise just created. It was hard to find continuity, group matches were held between September and December, and that’s a long way to go! There, between the semi-finals (mid-April) and the final, we made nine changes. I’ve had a lot of guys who have sores and they weren’t around. We now have a team that is closer to our typical team, with a lot of players playing to choose, and a much more solid framework. But we’re not as solid as the Georgians in black black, who work like the pros. It’s a great team! They have Georgia’s three-quarter streak, they are only missing a full-back (dashing and flying) and full-back Nyashvili. Up front, they picked quite a few players in France.
The Georgians are coached by Levan Masashvili, who is also the coach of the team. You can also combine the two roles. Is it an added advantage?
Otherwise the difficulty will be to have players who play in one way in the club, in another way with the franchise, and in a third way with the choice! We can’t, it would be too complicated. You helped us. When we played against Canada in November, we won (20-17) with 21 Portuguese-born players. And if we didn’t have Lusitanos to prepare, we wouldn’t have been able to.
“Portuguese rugby has different strengths and has a different approach than you find in France.”
Can you compare the level of the Lusitanos to the level of the French department?
I also tried to ask myself this question, but there is really no answer! It is almost impossible. Portuguese rugby has different strengths and has a different approach than what you find in France. Fighting before doesn’t make any sense there, it’s a little overshadowed at times. They have players who participate in the game, with a very dynamic game, across the width of the pitch. It is very creative and fast. There is still a fight. We try to bring them, through selection, that culture in the attackers game, scrum, mul, and even touch, which is not part of their priority. The three-quarters streak might hit a shocker in Pro D2, but the attackers will have more trouble. It is a different kind of rugby, but very exciting to prepare for the international level, because it is geared towards speed, dynamic gameplay and repetition of missions!
What you described for the front match, does it promise to challenge Georgians with experience in the field?
It’s true that we sometimes have trouble hitting crosshairs. We were able to hold off the Iberians at this level, to meet the challenge in Scrum. We have a fairly complete package this time around, which has international gaming experience. So we have a small right-hand column, it’s not homogeneous yet, but it’s not bad! At the press conference, the day before the match, they said clearly that they want to stop us from playing quickly… On the contrary, we will have to turn up the volume to try to tire them out and stop them. of quick play. Assume the power of the attackers. And since it’s going to be 30 degrees, or even a little more…
Does the draw that Portugal snatched from Tbilisi last winter give you reason for hope?
No, the context is different. When we played with them, they didn’t put together the best team and they were surprised by our organization, we were able to take them with their strong points, like the touch. But Portuguese rugby is less complicated than it was a few years ago compared to the Georgians, and it shows.
Is it important for this new European competition to continue?
Yes, very important. It will be the basis for the development of rugby in these countries. A bit like what the Argentines did with the Jaguar. It brings together the best players in the professional, or even semi-professional, to be the base of the national team. »