Nice, the capital of French rugby for the weekend. The city hosts the two Top 14 semifinals this Friday and Saturday on the Allianz Riviera turf. It is enough to ignite the flame that was reborn a few years ago in the hearts of the riparian supporters of the oval. And that of your local team.
Vice-champion of France in 1983, the racing club Racing de Nice, which became Rugby Nice Côte d’Azur and today Stade Nice rugby, is resurrected from its ashes. After evolving into Federal 3 from 2012 and quickly finding colors until joining the National in 2020, the club in the fifth city of France even hopes to find the elite soon. Its president, Régis Brandinelli, talks about the future with 20 Minutes.
After a fall, we feel, for a few years, the return of a certain enthusiasm for rugby in Nice …
This sport has always been important there. But things have stopped a bit since the 2000s, simply because we haven’t taken the right turn towards professionalism. We are coming back. Today, yes, there is a real madness. We are lucky to have a municipality and communities that follow us and help us a lot. A few nice entrepreneurs too. Little by little, we are putting this sport back in its place. In particular with the Stade Nice which returns to a more consistent level and which should be even more so in the coming years. I have always been at the club and have been one of its leaders for seven years. It has nothing to do with everything I knew then, when we were in Federal 3. Apart from the fans, the enthusiasts, no one came to see rugby. Today, this is no longer the case. Then we can see that we are once again a city that counts between our collaboration with the Stade Français, the Scottish federation, the French team that has come several times and that is still there this week, the semifinals of the Top. 14, the World Cup … There is a real dynamic. And for dominoes, the rest of the clubs in the county also benefit.
The professionalism you mentioned has gained momentum. A great deal of effort has also been put into the equipment … What is still missing?
We just go up to Pro D2 or better. That Nice, the fifth city in France, is not in the second division or even in the Top 14 is not normal. And that is what we need. Let the club return to an attractive level for the spectators and to create an even stronger illusion.
The club has just restructured its staff. Is it going in that direction?
The arrival of Arnaud Vercruysse and Alexandre Compan as coaches will give us new life. It is a duet with experience in supporting players from the amateur world to the professional world. Exactly what we are looking for. They have been club coaches who have had great promotions. And they have a double feature that I find interesting, which is that they are very good technically and are real team managers.
In addition to Steffon Armitage, he returns to Nice “where he has everything [s]childhood memories ”, the club has also invested in other recruits …
Yes, but the team already has a very well-equipped squad, which must be able to play climbing, we chose not to change many people. We want to build slowly and not turn everything upside down at all times. We have six arrivals. In particular, midfielder Matthieu Lorré, who played for Racing 92 and has a lot of experience at the highest level. He himself took part in several ascents. There is also a second line, a very fast and very powerful center, a prostitute, a back and a third jump line. My deep conviction is that we need complementary profiles. I don’t believe in big names. Players must want to get along. Rugby is a group combat sport.
With all that, if you had to make the bet, Nice in the Top 14, when will it be?
My deep conviction is that it will be easier for the club to play Pro D2 than National. The day we go through this stage, the economic fabric, the spectators, everyone will want to come to the stadium regularly and it is the whole department that will push so that we can still. So, reasonably, I think if we’re lucky enough to move to Pro D2 next season, we’ll be playing the top of the basket so we can be in the final phase in 5 or 6 years.
At the Allianz Riviera?
Yes, or at another stage. In most big cities there are always two stadiums: one with 35,000 seats, where we can accommodate very large posters like this weekend, and another with 10,000 or 12,000 seats that can be filled every weekend.