Montpellier looking for hat-trick of titles
Montpellier have been crowned both French football and handball champions this year and on Friday their rugby counterparts take on Castres hoping to move a step nearer to making it a unique title treble.
However, their inspirational joint head coach Fabien Galthie - who has formed a terrific coaching partnership with Eric Bechu - says that they have much to do in their playoff if they are to join their fellow Montpellier sporting cousins at the top of the tree.
"They have set the bar very high," mused the 43-year-old former France captain, who in his first season at the club took them to a surprise appearance in last year's Top 14 final where they lost to Toulouse.
"It makes you very humble when such things happen in the same 'village', the football team achieved something exceptional and the handball side is an institution.
"It is like a family story. The step-father is an international, the step brother is also an international, you are just playing for a club. And when you all eat together you don't dare speak."
Castres will be looking to exact revenge over their opponents after they lost 18-17 at home at the same stage last year and with Montpellier having to field 19-year-old scrum-half Eric Escande, Galthie knows it will be a tough challenge for the youngster who has barely played since last November.
"I prefer not to talk too much about that, because they are going to target him," said Galthie, who was overlooked as France coach both in 2007 and then after last year's World Cup.
"He has played around a dozen matches. We don't have a choice, that's how it is."
Galthie, who won the French title as coach with Stade Francais in 2007, said he saw the battle up front as being pivotal where Castres - who are seeking to reach the semifinals for the first time since 2001 - have been impressive this season inspired by former All Black Chris Masoe.
"Castres possesses a very good scrum, the best line-out. It is the team that makes most ground in the mauls, who provokes their opponents into making the most mistakes and have the best kicker (Romian Teulet) in the championship.
"In the backs they are solid and in tune with each other.
"I am expecting a very, very difficult game. Castres are consistent, confident of their strengths, and have a maturity based around players like Masoe."
Aside from Masoe - who is joining Toulon next season - Castres will look to Teulet to keep the scoreboard ticking along and banish memories of the 34-year-old's penalty miss two minutes from time in last year's clash.
Teulet, who holds the world record of points scored for the one club with 3 017 in his 11 years at the three-time French champions, is adamant that has not left its mark.
"It is not because of my penalty we lost, we just didn't run the game," said Teulet, who surprisingly has never been capped.
The other playoff takes place on Saturday and sees the two most heavily bank-rolled teams Toulon and Racing-Metro clash with the former hoping to bounce back from the disappointment of losing to Biarritz in the European Challenge final.
However, Racing centre Henry Chavancy is confident he and his teammates can set aside a troubled season within the club and reach the last four.
"We were staring into the abyss earlier this year and the positive thing is that we have moved forward from that," said the 24-year-old, who is favoured to make the France squad for the Tour of Argentina in the summer.
"We have nothing to lose against Toulon. Everyone sees Toulon as favourites ..... all the better."