On Monday, the day after beating Toulon (14-3), Maxime Machenaud celebrated his 25th birthday. But even in this festive season, there has been no let-up. Like his team-mates, Racing Metro 92’s international scrumhalf is keen to repeat the performance in the away game against Oyonnax on Saturday’s match.
Maxime, what for you was the most satisfying aspect of the win against Toulon on Sunday?
This was the match we couldn’t afford to lose. Toulon is a side with very physical players, they like to run a lot of one-off balls close to the forwards, so obviously the pressure was on us to counter them in the impacts and in the rucks. I think we did really well in this sector of the game, it’s what allowed us to be competitive on the pitch. Because against Toulon, if you don’t win the battle up-front, it is very difficult to beat them. Thanks to the quality of our possession and our defence which remained very solid, we were able to unsettle them and put them off their game. Little by little, this enabled us to put our own game plan in place and not to lose our structure. Not only did we lift the intensity of our game, but we also showed a lot of solidarity which enabled us to pull off a victory which, I am sure, will be hugely important for the future.
And all this, on the day before your birthday…
I couldn’t have wished for a better present for my 25th birthday! (Laughs). Unfortunately we couldn’t really celebrate it, because the championship still has a long way to go and there is another huge challenge waiting for us in Oyonnax on Saturday. But to beat the European champions on our home pitch, with 13,000 spectators at Colombes, it’s great for the moral. Our President, Mr Lorenzetti stopped us from playing the Toulon game at Stade de France, but in the end I think it was probably just as well. Because there was a terrific ambience at Colombes, and we really have to congratulate our supporters who turned out in force… it was really a great spectacle!
In the meantime, what frame of mind are you and your Ciel et Blanc team-mates in as you prepare to play in Oyonnax on Saturday evening?
It’s yet another decisive moment in our season. We know what is waiting for us down there, but we absolutely have to confirm our performance against Toulon. At home on Sunday we proved our defence is solid, but we now have to show we can do it away, against a team which has still not been beaten at home this season. I know a few of the Oyonnax boys, we played together at Agen, and I am looking forward to catching up with them. But it’s always a tough place to play, I am expecting the same kind of forward tussle as against Toulon, where the battle of the rucks will be crucial. Oyonnax is a team where the players know each other inside-out, they are not afraid to use the ball, and they have created headaches for all the top teams in the championship. It’s up to us to remain focused, to kick on from our win against Toulon, and to pull a near-perfect game in order to win away from home.
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