Toulouse Olympique will fight to the end to maintain their Super League status while working on a ‘Plan B’ to bounce back immediately if they do succumb to relegation.
The French club’s Chief Executive Cedric Garcia spoke exclusively to League Express about his dreams and disappointments in the Olympians’ first-ever season in the top-flight which sees them rooted to the bottom of the league table with just five fixtures left to play.
Garcia maintains his belief that Toulouse can beat the drop but admitted that “sensible planning” is taking place if results don’t go their way.
He said, “We’re still on Plan A and that is to stay in Super League but we do have a Plan B in case of relegation. We don’t really want to talk about it at this stage but we must be sensible and make solid plans.
“We’ve proved to everyone this season that we are a Super League club at every level, how we operate, our facilities and our commitment to the game.
“Supporters coming here all say they have a fantastic experience at Stade Wallon, so we have the infrastructure and capabilities that deserve to be in the top flight.
“And on the field, we can compete too; eight of our defeats were by the smallest of margins and if we’d just managed to close out half of those fixtures, we would be safe and contending mid-table.
“But if the worst happens, our Plan B is to build a team that can come directly back into Super League and close out those games. It’s as simple as that.
“We obviously have more detailed planning than that, but hopefully we won’t have to put it into action.”
Garcia admits that there is a sense of frustration with the recent run of three straight defeats.
He added, “There’s a real sense of disappointment especially with the last game (a 22-16 loss at Hull KR after leading 16-10 at half-time). Once again it is a missed opportunity and let’s hope it isn’t one too many.
“We had the game in our grasp and we kicked directly into touch and they scored on the back of that. It’s a killer.
“We don’t like to speak about referees but there was a big incident soon after when Dom Peyroux breaks the line and picks up a high shot but nothing was said. A penalty there would have taken us to 18-10 and then we get penalised on attack and Olly Ashall-Bott still doesn’t know what he did wrong.
“These decisions had a massive impact on the game but at the same time we could and should have won it ourselves.”
Garcia concedes that the task is more difficult than ever now for Toulouse but says the club is still full of fighting spirit.
“We will never give up. We are just two points behind Wakefield and four behind Warrington; there are still ten points to be fought for and anything can happen.
“Things are changing every week and we must take our opportunities.
“Our mindset has always been about gaining from the learning curve and if we do stay up, we will be so much better next time around from our experiences this season.
“We are a Super League club and we have a Super League team; nobody can take that from us. It’s our first season at the top and it has been a huge step up, especially with all the Covid-related things that hit us right at the beginning.”
The Olympians have one more home game this season, against Catalans Dragons on August 25th and the club is working hard on bringing a bumper crowd for the fixture.
Garcia admits that the attendance figures at Stade Ernest Wallon have been disappointing this year but the club has a winning formula to start improving
“We’re pushing hard with Catalans and the French Federation to get supporters in from Elite One clubs for a celebration of French Super League with the derby.
“This is unique, it has never happened before in Toulouse and we want it to be a very special and historic night.
“We’ve even had English fans contacting us for tickets, saying they are flying in for the game.
“The first derby in Perpignan early this season was a very competitive game. It wasn’t the most attractive because both sets of players were edgy and maybe a little tense because of the nature of the game.
“This one will be just as competitive but the standards will improve. We know more about each other now and I’m expecting a real battle which could go either way.
“We’re building an event with these derbies and hopefully they will develop long into the future and become a must-see for French supporters.
“The support we got at the end of the Championship season last year was tremendous, especially the last two games, but we haven’t been able to build on that for many different reasons.
“Toulouse is a winning city; you can see that with their rugby union and football teams.
“For example, when the football team got promoted to the top division, they struggled to win games and the support was poor, down to around 10,000.
“When they were winning games in the lower division, they were getting 20-30,000. It doesn’t matter what level you are at, Toulouse fans are all about winning.
“We clearly didn’t win enough home games to attract bigger crowds. So let’s hope we stay up and can have a normal pre-season for 2023.
“If we can get a winning start, then I am absolutely confident that our support will grow.”
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