Racing 92 have struggled during the first portion of the Top 14 season. The struggle has been largely due to an Dan Carter injury. This has been compounded by external issues over alleged doping within the club, but all that must be put aside before they play this weekend.
Entering round one of the Champions Cup on Sunday against Munster, Racing 92 are currently in eighth place of the Top 14. The struggles by Racing this season have been numerous. Maxime Machenaud was suspended for the first two games of the season. That suspension was due to a red card he received in the Top 14 final against Toulon last season.
Dan Carter has been struggling through the season with various injuries (see above). So far this season, Carter has missed three games out of eight through injury. In his absence, Racing has managed only one win without him as the starting fly half.
Rémi Talès has been the backup option since Carter’s arrival last year. Talès was a late bloomer in French rugby, having not earned his first French cap until he was 28 years old. He is a competent fly half, but does not posses the directive-skills necessary for a team as high a quality, as Racing.
Talès replacing Carter also requires Maxime Machenaud to take over kicking duties. Machenaud is a good kicker, but not the same performer as Dan Carter when kicking for posts.
External distractions for Racing
Doping allegations against Racing provide distraction, but little substance prior to round one of the Champion’s Cup
On top of all of Racing’s misfortunes this season allegations of doping have been brought against three Racing players. A report by the French newspaper L’Equipe stated that the French anti doping agency (AFLD) found trace amounts of corticosteroids in the urine of Dan Carter, Joe Rokocoko and Juan Imhoff following their Top 14 final win over Toulon last season.
The player’s manager in an interview with the NZ Herald news stated “We have been aware of the issue for a few weeks. Our understanding and assurances we’ve had are all the documents around TUE’s have been filed,” he told NZ Herald.
Therapeutic Use Exemption
The use of TUE’s by professional sportspeople has been in the spotlight since the Russian-based hackers released World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) information into the public forum. The agency’s role is crucial to maintaining fairness in sport, and the prohibited list of drugs is adopted by every region ‘in different ways’. Corticosteroid use must be adjudged under the authority of the Fédération Française de Rugby (FFR).
All players were this week interviewed and the situation has escalated with the release of more medical data. Racing have issued a statement – Racing 92 wants to assert with the greatest force its sporting ethics, which have nothing to do with illegal practices, we are on the side of law, ethics and love of the values of a clean sport.
Munster unconcerned by reports
Munster has taken the opportunity to discuss the situation in Paris. Rassie Erasmus, Munster’s Director of Rugby commented on the recent controversy surrounding Racing. When discussing doping he stated that, “I’ve known Dan Carter for a long time. I have coached against him and played against him. He is such an icon and I would never say anything bad about him. I have no problem with the other two players involved in this match. Let justice take its course,” he told The Irish Times
Munster is currently 4-2 in conference play and have been struggling this year when playing other quality teams. This year Munster is 0-2 against teams from the top half of the Guinness Pro 12, with losses at the hands of Cardiff and Leinster.
Strong defense will be necessary against the Top 14 winger Imhoff
Munster rugby has performed well this season preventing the try. Munster is tied for second in tries allowed behind only Table leading Ulster. A strong Munster defense will be incredibly important against the Argentinian national Juan Imhoff. The flyer has scored six tries over the first eight games, and is truly an amazing winger. If Munster leaves the slightest edge open near the side line, Imhoff will find the opening and punish them for it.
Dan Carter injury
Racing 92 has been off to a less than ideal start to their season. The imminent return of Dan Carter will definitely provide them with an important advantage. Rémi Talès is not the ideal fly half for Racing, but is more than adequate this week against Munster. Dan Carter’s leadership and improved kicking abilities wil be necessary next week, when Racing take on Leicester in England.
Munster will have to work hard to contain all of the weapons that Racing have though. Pro 12 squads have not performed well over the past few years in the Champions Cup. Do not expect that trend to change for Munster this year.
Statistics Courtesy of Statbunker
“Main photo credit”