PREVIEW: Stade play down Ratini no-show

Fri, 02 Sep 2016 06:46
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TOP 14 WEEK THREE: Stade Francais host Clermont in a rematch of the 2015 Top 14 Final trying to play down a disciplinary incident involving Fijian recruit Alipate Ratini.

The flying 25-year-old wing missed Monday's team photo due to "a personal problem" according to Stade head coach Gonzalo Quesada, who insisted he won't be making a song and dance about the no-show.

Quesada said it wasn't "catastrophic" but admitted the troubled Fijian could face disciplinary measures.

"We're not running a help centre here, but we're not monsters either, we'll take our time and make the right decision," the coach said.

Ratini's talent lit up the Top 14 in his debut season in France with Grenoble two years ago as he scored 10 tries in just 15 matches.

But Grenoble eventually fired him over a poor disciplinary record and a subsequent stint at La Rochelle was short-lived.

No-shows are anything but rare amongst Fijians plying their trade in France with many clubs reluctantly indulgent of the island nation's star players' lax approach to time-keeping.

Over the years, several players including Lyon's Napolioni Nalaga, Timoci Nagusa of Montpellier and former Toulouse and Agen bulldozer Rupeni Caucaunibuca have come up with some of the most entertaining excuses for extending their holidays back in their homeland.

The weather, a lost mobile phone and forced marriage have been offered as reasons by Fijians for returning to training late, sometimes by as much as weeks.

Nagusa, last season's top try-scorer, is currently already over a month late in returning to Montpellier and not expected back until next week, with a lost bank card offered as a reason for his inability to pay for a flight home.

Stade will be keen to get their Fijian flyer focussed on the pitch as soon as possible as they look to bounce back from last weekend's poor 20-28 defeat at Brive.

They had started the season so well a week earlier with a 54-20 thrashing of Grenoble as Clermont, who start the season with three consecutive away matches, were held 30-30 by La Rochelle.

But the Jaunards, whom many accused of choking in their final defeat to Stade in 2015, bounced back with an impressive 26-22 win at Montpellier last time out.

The capital side are mindful of avoiding a similar fate to their dismal title defence last season.

Quesada's outfit got off to a poor start and never recovered, eventually finishing just one place off the relegation zone.

Fellow Parisians Racing 92, the current Top 14 champions, host Toulouse in the weekend's crunch encounter on Sunday.

Toulouse are the only side with a 100 percent record after two games while Racing bounced back from their opening weekend 9-15 defeat at Bordeaux-Begles to ease past second-division champions Lyon 29-16 last time out.

Like several other teams, Racing are waiting for a Fijian to arrive and will be without lock Leone Nakarawa, a new signing from Glasgow, who has yet to arrive at the club.

French international wing Teddy Thomas is injured while South African flyhalf and utility back Johannes Goosen is on international duty with the Springboks.

Toulouse coach Ugo Mola wasn't happy with his side last week despite an impressive win over Bordeaux.

The latter host struggling Montpellier, who say they've had no news from Nagusa about his whereabouts.

Montpellier, who reached the Top 14 semifinals last season following a storming second half to the campaign, are one of three teams to have lost their first two matches and the trip to wine country will not be easy. 

Round Three Fixtures:


Stade Francais v Clermont
Castres v La Rochelle
Lyon v Grenoble
Pau v Bayonne
Toulon v Brive


Bordeaux-Begles v Montpellier
Racing 92 v Toulouse 

Agence France-Presse