Top 14. Gonzalo Quesada: “Being in the fight for the first six places”

Stade Français coach Gonzalo Quesada hopes to have a better season than last year (© Icon Sports)

Definitely turning the page on the last season of Top 14, taking lessons from this 11th place in the ranking. It is the will of French stadium. the manager Gonzalo Quesada with his staff he worked especially on the lack of regularity observed last year. “We have done some very good performances. But we had many more unsatisfactory performances. The bottom line is that we have been very inconsistent. We’ve identified several changes to help us move forward.”

“Avenging” players.

First, there is the recruitment of new players, in particular the arrival of second row Baptiste Pesenti, hooker Biarrot Lucas Peyresblanques or even the third lines of Pau and Toulon Giovanni Habel-Kuffner and Julien Ory. In total, of the 11 hires, the average age is just over 25 years.

“We have targeted players with a certain character, a certain state of mind, who are vindictive and who come to Paris looking for an important step in their career. We were able to bring in several players that we had targeted. I also admit that we were unable to sign certain experienced and top level players. Then we also have experience with arrivals from Michael Ivaldi and of Morgan Parra“, underlines Gonzalo Quesada, satisfied with his hiring.

Morgan Parra as future leader

The Parisian manager knows the Clermont scrum half well 71 selections. “From the time he was 18 until he was 22, I saw him every week because I was taking care of the game at the foot of the French national team. Last year we traded a lot because I couldn’t afford to bring a player who is at the end of his career and who is coming to Paris to prepare for retraining”, recalls Gonzalo Quesada. He has Morgan Parra to contribute his experience. But he is aware that he must go step by step. “The role of leader will be built gradually and naturally, without skipping steps. Since the recovery, he has been very present in our trainings, in our meetings. We think he is very involved and tries to help the little ones. It has already set the bar very high in terms of requirements.”

Beyond the new players, the squad has also been expanded with new skills. Assistant coach of Saracens then someEngland, Paul Gustav will be in charge of the defense of the Parisians next season. Already at the under 18 club, James Kent will be responsible for analyzing performance and skills.

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Targets revised upwards

So what are Stade Français’ goals for next season? “On the one hand, there is the logical and concrete ambition to be there the fight for the first six places. On the other hand, you have to have the humility and respect to say that there are six teams that qualified last year that will be as strong or even stronger. There will also be other teams such as Toulon, Clermont or Lyon, which did not qualify. Our goal is to give us the means to be in this fight”, confides Gonzalo Quesada, specifying that the priority is work hard without talking too much.

Already absent for the preparation without equivalence with that of 2021

The work started from Monday July 11. After two weeks of preparation, the Parisians will go to practice in Faro in Portugal. “We started on a good foot. The only tricky point is that a few players are missing: internationals, injured or recovering from an operation. Otherwise, we have a work environment with high standards. We feel like players with a lot of energy, especially among the newcomers”, says the Stade Français coach. Among the current or future absentees: Leo Barre recovering from the Summer Series with the French national team under 20. Then Marcos Kremer and Nicolas Sánchez have been summoned to play the Rugby Championship with Argentina.

Argentina's Marcos Kremer will miss the start of the season at the Stade Français to play for Argentina in the Rugby Championship
Argentina’s Marcos Kremer will miss the start of the season at the Stade Français to play for Argentina in the Rugby Championship (© Icon Sports)

A truncated preparation last season

This 2022 build-up has nothing to do with the 2021 pre-season, which was partly the cause of the Parisians’ poor start to the season. “It was much lower for the Covid stories. We only had three weeks less preparation. Also, we didn’t have a No.10 in pre-season because Joris Seconds had gone with the French national team, Nicolas Sanchez with the Argentine selection and Leo Barre with those under 20 years old. It’s very complicated to do a pre-season without number 10. Back then, the calendar was quite tough with a derby from the first day”, emphasizes Gonzalo Quesada.

The start of the 2022-2023 season at the Stade Français is also constant. The Parisians will start at Jean Bouin against Clermont, before moving on to the finalist of the last Top 14: Castres Olympique.

From our correspondent in Paris, Nicolas Dendri

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