THE ARRIVAL OF Jonathan Sexton and Ronan O’Gara increased the weight of expectations on Racing Metro ahead of this season’s Top 14.
Sexton was one of three British and Irish Lions signed by the Parisian club as they sought to win their first French championship since 1990. Dan Lydiate and Jamie Roberts, who played with the Irishman in the Third Test victory over Australia, were signed from Newport Dragons and Cardiff Blues respectively and Racing fans set their sights on success.
The recently retired O’Gara joined the coaching ticket with Laurent Travers and Laurent Labit, the duo who led Castres to Top 14 glory last season. The former Munster outhalf has been given increased duties, concerning backline strategy, for the season ahead.
Racing laboured to a 19-14 home win over Brive in their league opener at La Rochelle. Sexton set up Benjamin Lapeyre for a try but was withdrawn from play in the second-half after landing three from six off the kicking tee. He started against Heineken Cup champions Toulon the following week and was on the losing side. Rival outhalf Jonny Wilkinson kicked 16 points as his team won 41-14 to leave the Parisians 11th in the league standings.
Next up on the fixture list for the under pressure Racing coaching staff is an away date with newly promoted US Oyonnax. L’Equipe have called the game “decisive” in determining the title credentials of Sexton’s new side.
Laurent Travers says his team has well and truly digested the 27-point defeat to Toulon and are eager to move on. He cautioned that there are 24 games remaining and his squad, with 14 new signings and four promotions from the club’s academy, will eventually click.
“Racing is a great team on paper but being a great team on the pitch is better,” he said. “We cannot build a team in three days. Just because you put 15 champions on the pitch together does not mean you will have a champion team.”