Dan Carter among big Racing names set to miss Munster clash

However those expected to come in will be straining at the leash to impress

Racing are not expected to play a number of established front-runners when hosting Munster in Saturday's rearranged European Champions Cup game at the Stade Yves-du-Manoir.

Amongst them are half-backs Maxime Machenaud and Dan Carter, as well as hooker Dimitri Szarzewski. Yet Rassie Erasmus is most probably correct in fearing this will not necessarily signal a lack of intent from the French champions.

Although already out of contention in Europe, and eighth domestically, after back-to-back defeats to a far hungrier Glasgow in December, there have been signs since of a response in recent weeks. Furthermore, those that are expected to come in will be straining at the leash to impress.

Typical of the plethora of home grown number nines now shining in the Top 14, their 24-year-old scrum-half Xavier Chauveau has been one of their few success stories this season and is putting Machenaud under pressure in any case.


Given Remi Tales was de-registered yesterday, and New Zealand backrower So'otala Fa'aso'o was added to their squad, Carter will most likely be rested in favour of Benjamin Dambielle, a strong, quick outhalf with a big boot.

The former Munster and All Blacks centre, Casey Laulala, could also come into the mix. Given their squad depth, refreshing the team could be beneficial, and with the chance to stake a claim for more regular game time these players will not lack for motivation.

Following their defeat to Saracens in last season’s European Champions Cup final in Lyon, Racing won six games in a row to claim the Bouclier de Brennus, a thrilling 34-33 semi-final extra-time win over Clermont earning a Stade de France showdown against Toulon in a battle of France’s nouveau riche.

But after winning their sixth French Championship last June, and first since 1990, with their 29-21 win over Toulon, Racing have seemed somewhat sated this season and have struggled to recapture that level of play.

Even Carter’s form has been up and down. Barely doing the basics in the defeat away to Glasgow in a performance that was widely criticised, Carter was much more like his old self in last Sunday’s reprise of that final when losing an intense, bruising encounter away to Toulon 17-11. He made a couple of big hits on his former All Blacks’ team-mate and fellow World Cup winner Ma’a Nonu, while also kicking superbly.

Second season

Racing's scrummaging, even something of an Achilles heel last season. was also notably more potent. That game largely hinged on Romain Poite's highly questionable sin-binning of the Racing fullback Brice Dulin, which left co-coach Laurent Labit exasperated on the touchline, and during which time Nonu scored the game's key try.

Racing’s performances have lacked an X-factor as well as the same level of desire this season, and to compound a sense of second season syndrome, as defending champions the Parisians have been an inviting ready-made target on their travels. Apart from a win away to bottom-placed Bayonne, they have managed just a draw away to La Rochelle, losing their other six games on the road in the Top 14 as well as to Leicester and Glasgow.

Against that, Racing have won all seven of their games in the Top 14 at the Stade Yves-du-Manoir, where they lost only once last season in 18 competitive matches. That equates to 24 wins in their last 26 games at their Parisian home ground.

Racing's season has been partially derailed by their club v player feud with Johan Goosen, last season's Player of the Year in the Top 14.

Unhappy with his rumoured €40,000 per month salary, the versatile and multi-talented South African recently declared his retirement at the age of 24 to take up a position as a commercial director in South Africa.

Whereupon, rumours circulated that Goosen was reputedly offered double his wages at Racing by the Montpellier owner, the Syrian-born French billionaire businessman Mohed Altrad, to join Gloucester, where Altrad is seeking to buy a controlling interest.

Racing's owner Jacky Lorenzetti met with club's legal advisors yesterday before issuing a club statement which accused Goosen of "blatant fraud".

He noted that the player had seemingly vacated his premises in Plessis-Robinson but is still legally contracted to the club and “remains on the list of players qualified by the EPCR to play in the Champions Cup, starting with the match between Racing 92 and Munster this Saturday.”

Legal proceedings

"In response to Johan Goosen's behaviour, Racing 92 is forced to initiate several legal proceedings aimed at enforcing its rights and redressing the harm done to the club. Racing 92 believes that the club is a victim of blatant fraud which Johan Goosen, his associates and various advisers must answer for in court."

"Various civil proceedings will be taken out, partly to obtain reimbursement of the advance payments made to Johan Goosen with regard to his image rights, and also to obtain compensation for the non-provision of services to which he had committed in this domain."

Racing intend lodging a complaint with the French Industrial Tribunal and to file a criminal complaint, adding “it is not conceivable that a player put an end to his sporting career while at the peak of such career, and accept a position in a South African company for a salary ten times less than what he was earning as a rugby player at Racing 92”.

“Full light must be shed on the responsibility of the various people who advised Johan Goosen in taking this aberrant and fraudulent strategy, and to this extent, there are grounds for wondering how Johan Goosen is being supported financially given the numerous commitments and investments he has to meet.”

This one is liable to run and run.

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times