Bordeaux-Begles’ ex-France No 8 Louis Picamoles said he wants to write another page in his rugby career with Saturday’s Top 14 semi-final against former club Montpellier in Nice.
Picamoles, 36, joined Christophe Urios’ side last season and will hang up his boots at the end of the campaign.
The two-time Top 14 winner with Toulouse made the last of his 82 Test appearances at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, during his second spell on the Mediterranean coast.
He departed for Stade Chaban-Delmas in March 2021 as medical cover after being told he could leave his contract early.
“I rediscovered the pleasure that I’d lost. I wanted to finish my career on a good note,” Picamoles told AFP this week.
“I came to Bordeaux-Begles for that, I lost that at Montpellier.
“Now, the story’s not finished, there are still some pages to write, I hope the ending will be beautiful,” he added.
Last weekend, Urios’ side beat Racing 92 in the play-offs to reach the last four.
The colorful head coach criticised his leading players including Les Bleus’ Mathieu Jalibert and Cameron Woki following defeat to lowly Perpignan on the last day of the regular season, seven days earlier.
After the knock-out win over the Parisians, fly-half Jalibert told Canal+ the squad were playing for themselves and not Urios.
“In the squad, there are big personalities, Christophe has a big personality, it shows the squad gets along,” said Picamoles, who has been moved to second-row by Urios.
“It brings out some characters, and in a match like Saturday we need to show that type of character and personality.”
– ‘No rockstars’ –
Elsewhere this weekend in the last four, also at Nice’s 35,000-capacity Allianz Riviera, modest Castres, who finished top of the table, face local rivals Toulouse, eyeing a record-extending 22nd French title.
Ex-Australia under-20s lock Tom Staniforth was at the forefront of the campaign for the five-time champions, leading the tackle statistics for the whole competition.
“Finishing first, it’s really good for the club, a really proud moment of history but as players, you finish first but you really want to take that next step,” Staniforth, 27, told Le French Rugby Podcast.
“Two games to go and you get to go to the big dance.”
Despite having the 10th highest financial budget in the league, Castres were unbeaten at home in the Top 14 with a squad lacking Test stars and recognised names.
On Friday, they will meet a Toulouse side including the likes of World Rugby player of the year Antoine Dupont and his fellow Six Nations winners such as Romain Ntamack, Cyril Baille and Anthony Jelonch.
“There are no big rockstars or 110-cap internationals,” Staniforth said of the Castres team.
“It’s just a bunch of battlers doing their best which makes you really proud to be part of the team.”
Semi-final fixtures (all times GMT)
Castres v Toulouse (1905)
Montpellier v Bordeaux-Begles (1905)