Castres Olympique: Top 14 Rugby History, Championships, and Key Players
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.
Founding and Early 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.
World Wars I and II
While Castres Olympique was quick to experience success, its trajectory through the ranks was heavily interrupted by both World Wars.
The club did, however, experience some success in the Pyrenees Cup between WWI and WWII, winning the championship in both 1936 and 1937. Then, in 1939, the final year of play before WWII, it finished third.
As it would turn out, this result would later earn the team promotion to the first division when rugby resumed in 1943.
The Post-War Years
When rugby resumed in 1943, the first division grew to include 95 clubs. This expansion meant Castres Olympique’s third spot in the 1939 Pyrenees Cup qualified it for a promotion to the first division.
First Championnat de France Finals
Despite interruption from WWII, Castres Olympique lost none of its early momenta. As it entered the first division, it continued to hold its own against other teams, and, by 1947, it qualified for its first finals series in the Championnat de France. Unfortunately, it lost in the first round.
Castres Olympique then qualified for the Championnat de France finals once again in the following year. However, in a repeat of its 1947 result, it failed to progress past the first round.
1948 Coupe de France Victory
Despite disappointing results in the 1948 Championnat de France finals, the club did have more luck in the less-prestigious Coupe de France that year. In the final, it defeated FC Lourdes 6-0 to take out the championship trophy — the first major title for Castres Olympique.
Back-to-Back Championnat de France Titles and the “Glorious Trifecta”
This 1948 win in the Coupe de France marked the first victory in what would later become the club’s “glorious trifecta.” The final two victories capping off the trifecta were 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.
The Tragic Death of Club Captain Jean Pierre-Antoine
Over 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, Castres Olympique named its stadium the Jean Pierre-Antoine Stadium. The stadium would retain this name until 2017, when, following a significant expansion and facilities upgrade, it was renamed after the club’s long-standing patron as the Pierre-Fabre Stadium.
A Return to Success
The long period of sub-standard results that followed the passing of Pierre-Antione would last right into the 1980s and would see the club experience two relegations.
However, with the financial aid that came with the arrival of club patron Pierre Fabre, Castres Olympique could finally begin climbing the ranks again. By 1989, it had regained its place in the elites after winning the 1989 Group B championship.
Return to the French Championship
Back in form, the club didn’t waste time as it returned to the first division, and, by the end of its first season back, it managed to qualify for the finals of the French championship. Unfortunately, it didn’t make it past the first round of that year’s finals. But it was clear CO was once again a team to be reckoned with.
The Drought Ends: First Championnat de France Title in Four Decades
It would only take three seasons back in the elites for Castres Olympique to take out the Championnat de France. This win sealed the club’s third prestigious “Bouclier de Brennus” and spelled the end to a forty-plus-year drought.
That same season (1993), CO would also make the Challenge Yves du Manoir finals. However, it failed to seal the double when it lost to Stade Toulousain 13-8 in the final.
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, the club would again be struck by tragedy in the intervening years. This time, a twenty-year veteran and former club captain named Francis Ru passed away in a tragic 2001 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.
The Modern Era
While the club battled to keep its spot in the elites throughout the early 2000s, it finally managed to turn things around when it recruited two new coaches ahead of the 2009-10 season.
A Change in Recruitment Policy Brings A Championship Trophy
With new coaches came a new recruitment policy. Castres Olympique now favored younger French natives over imported superstars from the international scene.
The results of this policy were immediate. In just one season, Castres Olympique qualified for the quarter-finals, despite its revamped team’s lack of elite-level experience.
As the club’s new lineup continued to build experience, results improved, and the team would make the semi-finals by 2012. Then, in 2013, it finally won its fourth French Championship title, which was now known as Top 14.
Tragedy Strikes Again
In the months that followed Castres Olympique’s fourth Bouclier de Brennus, the club would experience yet another tragedy with the passing of club patron Pierre Fabre, who succumbed to a long battle with illness in July of that year.
However, much like in 2001, Castres rebounded quickly, finishing the 2013-14 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, the club would again take out the Top 14 French 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 Castres Olympique’s clear dominance throughout the next season’s finals, it would fail to defend its title the following year when it narrowly missed out on finals qualification.
In recent years, the club has continued to perform admirably, albeit missing out on finals qualifications every year until 2022. Unfortunately, it again finished as the vice-champion after losing to Montpellier Hérault Rugby 10-29 in the final.
Castres Olympique Quick Facts
French Championship Results
Castres Olympique has made it to the finals of the Championnat de France eight times. Of those eight finals appearance, it has won on five occasions.
- 1949: Castres Olympique vs Stade montois (14-3)
- 1950: Castres Olympique vs Racing Club (11-8)
- 1993: Castres Olympique vs FC Grenoble (14-11)
- 2013: Castres Olympique vs RC Toulon (19-14)
- 2018: Castres Olympique vs Montpellier HR (29-13)
- 1995: Stade toulousain vs Castres Olympique (31-16)
- 2014: RC Toulon bs Castres Olympique (18-10)
- 2022: Montpellier HR vs Castres Olympique (29-10)
The Club’s Presence Off the Field
Castres Olympique is a major rugby influencer on social media, where it has a strong following. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok, where it counts over 300,000 followers. This figure puts it well into the top 10 most-followed of all French rugby clubs.
Following the legacy of its principal patron and his company, the Pierre Fabre Group, Castres Olympique is heavily involved in supporting the broader community. Locally, it is a big supporter of the country’s youth and regularly makes school appearances to spend time with students.
It is also heavily involved with local organizations like the French Blood Bank (Établissement Français du Sang, or EFC), the Pays d’Autan de Castres Hospital, and food aid charity Restos du Coeur.
Globally, it also supports rugby in Rwanda and other African countries. A major component of its support here is providing sports equipment to African rugby clubs.
In its early years, Castres Olympique played at the Parc d’Aillot. Then, in the 1920s, it moved into its current stadium, which now has a capacity of over 12,000 spectators.
When Castres Olympique moved into this stadium, it was known as Olympic Stadium. However, over the years, it has undergone two name changes.
Following the death of Pierre-Antoine in 1957, Castres Olympique remamed Olympique Stadium to Pierre-Antoine Stadium in honor of the fallen captain.
In 2017 the club renamed the stadium following major renovations works. This time it was in honor of club patron Pierre-Fabre.