After four rounds of Top 14 action, La Rochelle are sitting pretty at the top of the table. Can they keep it up? A gambler would have got enticing odds if he’d bet a few euros on La Rochelle to be leading the Top 14 a month into the new season. Four matches gone and the club from the west coast of France are ahead of the pack by two points.Clermont lie second, then come Stade Francais, Toulon and Montpellier. Swap league points for budgets totals and the table would be reversed with La Rochelle’s €18.2m dwarfed by Clermont (€30.5m), Stade (€27.5m), Toulon (€25.5m) and Montpellier (€24.20m). Only Bayonne and Brive have smaller financial resources than La Rochelle.So what’s the secret of their early season success? Firstly the calendar has been kind. Their opening day encounter at home to Clermont (whose first three matches were away) has been their toughest test, a match they drew 30-30. Then there have been wins against Grenoble, Castres and Lyon, none of whom are likely to be title contenders come the end of the season.Fantastique: La Rochelle are in the drivers seat in the Top 14La Rochelle’s generous fixture list continues until the European break with an away trip to Brive this Saturday and then home matches against Bayonne and Toulon. When the Top 14 shuts down for three weeks in the second week of October, La Rochelle could still be looking down on their rivals, and the hiatus is likely to have worked in their favour when the Top 14 season resumes at the end of the month.For while Toulon, Racing, Clermont, Bordeaux, Castres and Toulouse launch their Champions Cup campaigns, La Rochelle have the gentler Challenge Cup to negotiate. French clubs traditionally treat Europe’s secondary competition with an indifference bordering on disdain, and it’s unlikely La Rochelle are going to field full-strength sides in a pool that contains Gloucester, Treviso and Bayonne.They’ll give their key players a rest, keep them fresh for the serious business of the Top 14, particularly as their rivals will lose a raft of players to international commitments in November. For example, on the weekend of November 12/13 France play Samoa while La Rochelle host Toulouse. La Rochelle may lose Uini Atonio on France duty but Toulouse will probably be deprived of Sébastien Bézy, Yoann Maestri, Gaël Fickou, Maxime Medard and Yoann Huget. Duty calls: Players like Medard & Huget could miss out on playing La RochelleThere’ll be minimal disruption to their squad, a feature of La Rochelle in recent seasons, who dabble prudently and sparingly in the transfer market. When they do swoop, however, it’s for players who have been identified as possessing the necessary skills and character to complement the squad. This summer their marquee signing was former All Black Victor Vito, although the acquisition of veteran Australian fly-half Brock James from Clermont was a canny bit of business.There’s also a stability in their coaching staff with coach Patrice Collazo in the job since 2011 and his assistant, Xavier Garbajosa, now in his third season. There have been none of the comings and goings and controversy that have marked certain Top 14 clubs in the last season or two. For that La Rochelle have president Vincent Merling to thank. When they were relegated to the ProD2 in 2011, Merling – who at 26 years in the job is the longest-serving Top 14 president – launched his ‘Grow Together 2015’ initiative, a long-term plan to develop a club with strong foundations on and off the pitch.When it comes to attracting commercial partners, La Rochelle have a geographical advantage over their Top 14 rivals. Their closest neighbour is Brive, 300 km south east. So while Biarritz and Bayonne have suffered economically from their close proximity, as have Narbonne and Beziers, and Bourgoin and Lyon, La Rochelle have no clubs to compete with for local sponsorship. The same for spectators. La Rochelle’s average home gate in the 2015-16 season was 14,744, the fifth highest in the Top 14 behind Bordeaux, Toulon, Toulouse and ClermontFrench connection: Patrice Collazo & Xavier Garbajosa bring stability to La RochellePatrice Collazo must have been a happy man when he saw this season’s Top 14 fixture list for the first time. A gentle start so his side can build some momentum before the string of tough matches in the spring. But once again fortune has smiled on La Rochelle. Starting on the weekend of January 28/29, La Rochelle have their most demanding sequence of matches: Toulon, Stade Francais, Racing 92 and Toulouse. The four matches fall during the Six Nations when, in accordance with the summer accord signed by the LNR and the FFR, it will be national coach Guy Noves who decides if his players can play for their clubs on non-tournament weekends and not the clubs, as was the case previously. Surprise package: Could La Rochelle win the Top 14? So come the start of April La Rochelle may still be sitting pretty at the top of the league. It’s a long shot, of course, but isn’t that what football fans said about Leicester 12 months ago?For the latest Rugby World subscription offers click here and find out how to download the digital edition here. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS
MANCHESTER: Explosive batsman Jason Roy has been added to the England squad for the three-match ODI series against Australia beginning Friday at the Old Trafford.In a media statement, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Wednesday also informed that Dawid Malan has been named as a reserve. The middle-order batsman was in explosive form in the T20I series as he top-scored with 129 runs and played a crucial role in England’s 2-1 win over Australia in Southampton. Courtesy his performance, Malan has moved to the numero uno spot in ICC T20I rankings for batsmen. Joe Denly, who was originally named in the squad as a reserve, has left the bio-secure bubble and returned to Kent, the ECB statement further read. England ODI squad: Eoin Morgan (captain), Moeen Ali, Jofra Archer, Jonathan Bairstow, Tom Banton, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood. Reserves: Saqib Mahmood, Dawid Malan, Phil Salt. Australia squad: Aaron Finch (capt), Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins (vc), Josh Hazlewood, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Riley Meredith, Josh Philippe, Daniel Sams, Kane Richardson, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Andrew Tye, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam. (IANS) Also Watch: AASU-AJYCP’s New Political Party on Sept 11
THE Competitions Committee of the Upper Corentyne Cricket Association (UCCA) has announced that the drawing for the Baijnauth Sawmills 20/20 competition will be done today at the #73 Cricket Club ground at 16:00hrs.The captain, team manager and secretary of each of the participating clubs are asked to attend this drawing which will decide the preliminary round fixture of the competition.Clubs are asked to bring along a list of 15 players who will represent their respective clubs in the competition.A representative from the Guyana Umpires Council will be in attendance to explain the rules of the competition to all captains and managers.The UCCA has advised that it is compulsory for clubs that fall within the ambit of the Association’s control to attend this drawing, since those who do not attend will be at a definite disadvantage.Secretary of the UCCA, Mr Vadanand Persaud is urging clubs to select their best 15 players, since the rules of the competition will not allow clubs to introduce players into the competition who are not on their list.He is encouraging clubs to see the need to include upcoming, vibrant Under-19 players into their squads, since these players he said, are the future of cricket in the area.Mr Hamant Jagdeo, president of the UCCA is optimistic that this competition will be one of a kind in the area, and said that players have much to gain from their participation in these games.He wishes to advise the clubs that their participation is essential for the association to achieve its full potential, and for all to benefit in the game of cricket.He is appealing to members of the business community to support the association, and its programmes, and to lend support in any way they can.He lamented the state of cricket in the area and reassured the clubs that he and his executives will work arduously to ensure the glory days of cricket are returned to the area.An Under-17 competition will soon commence to select players for trials to the Berbice Under-17 inter-county team, Clubs will be notified shortly of the details of the competition.