Guirado’s last dance as Garbisi eyes Top 14 title

Italy fly-half Paolo Garbisi will take centre stage on Friday night as he looks to guide Montpellier to a first Top 14 title and give French hooker Guilhem Guirado a perfect send off.

Italy fly-half Paolo Garbisi will take centre stage on Friday night as he looks to guide Montpellier to a first Top 14 title and give French hooker Guilhem Guirado a perfect send off.

Montpellier face Castres in the final in Paris as the top two teams at the end of the regular season battle it out to be crowned champions of France at the Stade de France.

Castres have won the title on five previous occasions and finished top of the standings before beating defending champions Toulouse 24-18 in the semi-finals to reach the showpiece.

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This will be Montpellier’s third final appearance after they finished second behind Castres at the end of the regular campaign before edging out Bordeaux Begles 19-10 last time out.

But Montpellier have lost both of their last two Top 14 finals, with the most recent defeat coming against none other than Castres in 2018 when they were beaten 29-13.

And Montpellier head coach Philippe Saint-Andre has insisted that his team are ’51-49’ underdogs to claim their first-ever French league title.

Yet they only finished two points behind Castres in the table and with the likes of Garbisi and French internationals such as Anthony Bouthier and Arthur Vincent in their ranks, Montpellier possess more than enough firepower to prevail in Paris.

Garbisi played a pivotal role in Montpellier’s semi-final triumph and the 22-year-old signed a new contract with the club this week, having joined in 2021 from Benetton.

“I am very happy to continue the adventure with this squad in which I feel integrated, and it starts with the final on Friday,” said Garbisi, who has been a fixture for the Azzurri since his 2020 debut.

The Italian playmaker and his teammates will have extra incentive to succeed in Friday’s final as the game will also be 36-year-old hooker Guirado’s last before his retirement.

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A former France captain, Guirado made the last of his 74 Test appearances for Les Bleues at the 2019 Rugby World Cup and was a Championship regular over the years.

He will face up-and-coming opposite number Gaetan Barlot, who made his France debut in last July’s tour to Australia – an opportunity the 25-year-old is looking forward to grasping.

Barlot said: ”He’s had a really good career. Playing against him is a real moment of pride. I will play against one heck of a gentleman, who led France in a period when things didn’t go well.”


Castres: 15. Julien Dumora ; 14. Geoffrey Palis, 13. Thomas Combezou, 12. Vilimoni Botitu, 11. Filipo Nakosi; 10. Benjamin Urdapiletta, 9. Santiago Arata; 1. Quentin Walcker, 2. Gaetan Barlot, 3. Wilfrid Hounkpatin, 4. Florent Vanverberghe, 5. Tom Staniforth, 6. Mathieu Babillot (capt), 7. Nick de Crespigny, 8. Teariki Ben-Nicholas

Replacements: 16. Paula Ngauamo, 17. Wayan De Benedittis, 18. Loic Jacquet , 19. Baptiste Delaporte, 20. Jeremy Fernandez, 21. Adrea Cocagi, 22. Antoine Zeghdar, 23. Levan Chilachava

Montpellier: 15. Anthony Bouthier; 14. Arthur Vincent, 13. Geoffrey Doumayrou , 12. Jan Serfontein, 11. Vincent Rattez; 10. Paolo Garbisi, 9. Benoit Paillaugue; 1. Titi Lamositele, 2. Guilhem Guirado, 3. Mohamed Haouas, 4. Florian Verhaeghe, 5. Bastien Chalureau, 6. Alexandre Becognee, 7. Yacouba Camara (capt), 8. Zach Mercer

Replacements: 16. Brandon Paenga Paenga-Amosa, 17. Enzo Forletta, 18. Mickael Capelli, 19. Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 20. Gela Aprasidze, 21. Handre Pollard, 22. Gabriel Ngandebe, 23. Henry Thomas