After his masterful direction of play for the Ciel et Blanc last Saturday night in Stade des Alpes, Juan Martín Hernández reflects on the win (13-26) against Grenoble, and the rather special week which awaits him ahead of the big game... against his former club, Stade Français.
Juan Martín, by winning the game in Grenoble, Racing Metro ensured a significant victory for the coming weeks. What does this win mean, both from a personal and a team point of view?
In both cases, what it means is the win! There were some things we did well, others not so well, but what counts above all is the fact we won. Because if we had lost, today it would be almost over for us. As for the match itself, it's true that we didn't start well. It was a complicated game, in wet conditions, against a Grenoble side which is capable of playing good rugby. But after the first ten minutes, we were able to control the match.
For you personally, after being out for four weeks with injury, was this a particularly important game?
Yes of course it was an important match for me. I was under quite a lot of pressure, because as I said, if we had lost, it would have been all over. Personally, I tried to absord this pressure, and I tried to be totally concentrated on the task at hand. But the rest of the team made it much easier for me: whether it was the way the forwards dominated up front, or various situations where the guys played particularly well. Guys like Max (Machenaud) or even Jamie (Roberts) who reads the game well and is always a huge help when he is playing alongside you. In fact, when he scored that try, it was his call. In short, all around me, everyone worked hard to make my choices all the easier to make.
Still, in Grenoble last Saturday you seemed to be once again playing at your level...
I haven't played at my level for a long time. At least that's what everyone else says (smiles). But I think I played well, I'm starting to get back into the groove. Even so, before that, against Perpignan (19-19, on February 8th) I thought I also had a good game, and I would just like to start stringing together many more games like that.
This Saturday, Racing will take on your former club, Stade Français at Jean-Bouin. On the personal level is this going to be a special game for you?
No. It would be special if there were still lots of guys there that I had played with. But the ground has changed, the staff has changed, and there are only two or three players left from my time there - Sergio (Parisse), Pierre (Rabadan) and 'Juju' Arias. So, in my head and in my body playing against the old Stade Français would have been a very special game, but not today's Stade Français. We are just going to play against the immense Stade Français. But there is nothing special about it for me, because everything has changed, and it's a completely new team.
What about on the purely sporting level?
Obviously on the sporting level, it is completely different: it is a very special game! They are ahead of us on the points board, but if we win we can overtake them. On the other hand, if we lose, and if Bordeaux, who still has an extra game up their sleeve, win, it will be practically all over for us. Once again, it's going to be finals rugby!
And yet, the Ciel et Blanc have only one loss in their last six games. Since Castres, since Grenoble, things are starting to really pick up aren't they?
Yes. It's a bit late, but better late than never! (laughs) I would say that going back to the game in Perpignan, even though we have had losses since then, we started to play really well. But for this group, the win in Grenoble is just a beginning. There are great players here, great facilities, and the club has great ambitions. This is only the beginning of what it's going to be like in the years to come. If we lose against Stade Français, of course we will all be thrown in the rubbish tip. But if we win, I believe that it will be the start of a great period for Racing.
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