Castres Olympique

Top 14 Logo
Top 14
Nickname Castres Olympique
Founded 1905
Stadium Pierre-Fabre Stadium
Members

Team History

Castres Olympique History and Highlights.

Castres Olympique (CO) is a French Top 14 rugby club hailing from the town known as The little Venice of Languedoc. It has enjoyed a long history of competing at the pinnacle of French rugby, where it has won numerous trophies over the years.

Castres Olympique was founded in 1906 in the wake of an explosion in the popularity of rugby in France. Its founding members were a group of former students from Jean Jaurès College (known at the time as Castres College), who created the club during a gathering at a local cafe. Its first president was 27-year-old Eugène Agert, who, at the time, was the director of the department store, Aux Dames de France.

While the club was quick to experience success, its early trajectory through the ranks was heavily interrupted by both World Wars, although it did succeed in making it to the first division just ahead of World War II.

Despite the interruptions, however, the team lost none of its momentum and continued to mount the rankings. By 1947 Castres Olympique made its first Division One final qualification in the Championnat de France, which was backed up again with a spot the following year. In both years it was knocked out in the first round.

Despite being unable to progress past the first round of the Championnat de France finals again in 1948, that year the club experienced its first major victory, winning the 1947-48 Coupe de France title.

This win in the Coupe de France marked the first chapter in what would become the club’s “glorious trifecta,” which was capped off by consecutive wins in the following two Championnat de France seasons (1948-49 and 1949-50).

While the team would make the following year’s finals again, it was unfortunately knocked out of the running in the quarter-finals, marking the end of its winning streak. Further, for the next few decades, the club went on to experience inconsistent results following a devastating 1957 tragedy that saw its 35-year-old captain, Jean Pierre-Antoine, die after a match against Montréjeau.

In honor of its fallen captain, Castre Olympique then named its stadium the Jean Pierre-Antoine Stadium. The stadium would retain this name until 2017 when, following a major expansion and facilities upgrade, it was renamed after the club’s long-standing patron as the Pierre-Fabre Stadium.

The long period of sub-standard results that followed the passing of Pierre-Antione would last right up until the end of the 1980s, and the club experienced two relegations in the period between. However, with the financial aid that came with the arrival of Pierre Fabre, the club was able to regain its place with the elites after winning the 1989 Group B championship.

Back in form again, the club didn’t waste time now that it had been promoted and, by the end of its first season, had managed to qualify for the finals of the French championship. And while It didn’t make it past the round of sixteen, it was clear CO was once again a team to be reckoned with.

Indeed, it would only take three seasons back in the Top 13 for Castres Olympic to make its first semi-finals in four decades. And it would only take four seasons for it to take out the Championnat de France title, ending a forty-plus-year drought to seal a third prestigious “bouclier de Brennus.” That same season (1993) CO would also make the finals of the Challenge Yves du Manoir, although it was unable to seal the double win when it lost to Stade Toulousain 13-8.

In the wake of Castres Olympique’s victorious 1992-93 season, the club would continue to perform respectably, winning vice-champion of France in 1995 and making the quarter-finals on numerous occasions. However, it would still be a number of years before it would gain another title.

Sadly, in the intervening years, the club would again struck by tragedy when a twenty-year veteran and former captain of the club passed away in a tragic car accident. Today, the main stand at the club’s stadium bears his name as a tribute.

Fortunately for the club, the tragedy did not signal the beginning of another forty-year drought, although the coming years did prove tough with CO battling to stay in the championships. Things were different for CO’s U21 team, however, and it would go on to win its championship — the Frantz-Reichel Cup — on three occasions (2003, 2008, and 2009).

The club finally managed to turn its results around again when it brought in two new coaches ahead of the 2009-10 season and changed its recruitment policy to favor younger French natives over imported stars. The results were immediate and that same season it qualified for the quarter-finals, despite the lack of elite-level experience its revamped team had.

As the club’s new lineup continued to build experience, results continued to improve, and the team would make the semi-finals by 2012, before winning another French championship title in 2013.

In the months that followed Castres Olympique’s fourth bouclier de Brennus, it would experience yet another tragedy with the passing of Pierre Fabre, who succumbed to a long battle with illness in July of that year.

For the following 2013-14 season, the club would again perform admirably. However, it would only finish the season as vice-champion of France after it failed to defeat RC Toulon for a second time (it had won the previous season’s final against  RC Toulon).

Nevertheless, Castres Olympique would again take out the Top 14 championships only a few years later when it defeated Montpellier in a crushing 29-13 victory in the 2017-18 season grand final. However, despite the clear dominance Castres Olympique has demonstrated throughout the entire season finals, it would fail to defend its title the following year when it narrowly missed out on finals qualification.

Things would remain the same for the following seasons, with the club missing out on finals qualification in all years until 2021 with the slight exception of 2020 — which was cut short by Covid-19.

Castres Olympique was recently locked in a fierce battle for finals qualification in the 2021-22 season, with only a handful of points sitting between the top and bottom halves of the ladder. The club lost the French Top 14 Final to Montpellier Herault Rugby on June 24, 2022.

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Benjamín URDAPILLETA

Fly-half
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