Racing to the Finish

You might think that all the pressure is on Edinburgh this Friday night. With little progress being made domestically, Edinburgh’s season will be defined by these remaining pool matches. Racing Metro, on the other hand, have no chance of progressing.

It is, however, not as simple as that. Racing are coming off one away defeat to Montpellier and an ugly draw in Perpignan. They lie 6th equal in the league and remain a shadow of the team they were last year. The fans are beginning to get agitated with the tinkering style of Pierre Berbizier’s selections and the players he remains loyal to, such as Sireli Bobo.

The fans have very high expectations for their club, and rightly so given the money being spent. They certainly do not take the clichéd view of French fans who don’t care about Europe. They absolutely expect to win at home and see no reason why they should lose to a team so lowly as Edinburgh. The players clearly underestimated Edinburgh and that will not be allowed to happen again.

If it is tight going into the final twenty minutes, the pressure of the Colombes crowd will not allow a self-destruction like there was at Murrayfield.

One thing that will lift Racing is the return of Francois Steyn who came off the bench in Perpignan after a long lay-off post-World Cup. He last played for the club in Marseille in the semi-final of the Top 14 where Racing imploded. Francois was by no means perfect but the way he kept his head when all about him were losing theirs, not to mention his sheer endeavour, really warmed him to me. His dishevelled appearance in the Gare St Charles before boarding the TGV back to Paris showed him truly distraught and ready to drown his sorrows. Edinburgh’s penalty count will have to be as low as it has ever been to prevent him leaving his mark on the scoreboard.

Racing’s fixtures in the next month show Edinburgh, Cardiff then two season-defining games against the best teams in France. The first, at home to Toulouse, will be played at the Stade de France. Racing must start showing some form if they want that occasion to be as successful as last year’s, where they very nearly filled the Stade. The second is in the bear-pit of Clermont. If they come away from those two meetings with any points then Racing might just get their swagger back, proving that they can actually keep up with the very best.

If they are to take points off Toulouse and Clermont, however, they must start winning now. The time for finding some form is running out.

Racing may not care about beating Edinburgh in the Heineken Cup, but they most certainly do care about Toulouse and Clermont Auvergne and they do care about winning at Colombes. It is getting to the stage in the season where they can ill afford that traditional French luxury of picking and choosing.

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Having captained both Edinburgh and Scotland at age-grade level, Fraser spent 10 months in Paris with Racing Metro 92. He is now at Exeter University.