LOU Rugby: Full History, Updated European Challenge Cup Result
Lyon Olympique Universitaire History and Highlights.
Lyon Olympique Universitaire, aka LOU, are two-time French champions. But, their current generation of fans did not have the opportunity to go out on the streets and celebrate their team’s domestic supremacy. LOU have been in and out of the Top 14 over the last decade, but since 2016, they have managed to retain their top-flight status.
The club we know as Lyon Olympique Universitaire today was founded in 1896. However, it had a different name back then. At first, the club was called the Racing Club since it was formed by the merger of Racing Club de Vaise and the Rugby Club de Lyon.
The club merged with a few other sides and changed its name to Racing et Cercles Réunis in 1902. Merely months after taking on their new name, the club rebranded themselves as Lyon Olympique.
That year, the club also announced they would adopt red and black as their official colors. While the name change didn’t stick, the shades of red and black did. To this day, LOU players wear those colors.
Lyon Olympique did not win the French championships in the following years. But they became a prominent name in the national rugby scene. Lyon third-line Noël Cessieux got the call for France’s historic, first-ever international union rugby match in 1906.
In 1910, the club underwent another name change and became known as Lyon Olympique Universitaire. The name change followed the club associating itself with AS de l’École centrale de Lyon, one of the top engineering schools in France. Hence the term Universitaire got into their name. The arrangement gave Lyon access to a pool of young talents. The club hasn’t pursued further rebranding since then.
Between 1920 and 1930, LOU shifted the power dynamics in the Lyon region. They made some excellent recruitments from Languedoc-Roussillon, who played a major role in LOU dethroning FC Lyon as the most dominating rugby force in Lyon. The Red and Blacks took home several Lyonnais regional championships within this period.
In the ’30s, LOU relayed their regional dominance to the national level. They finished runner-ups in the French championships in 1931. In the next two years, they picked up back-to-back titles. In 1933, they secured a double, winning the Yves du Manoir Challenge and the national championship trophy, the Bouclier de Brennus.
After World War II, LOU experienced a period of decline. Not just LOU, the entire Lyonnais region had a rugby union slump as soccer became more popular. In addition, the emergence of rugby league further depleted the union talent pool.
The club got relegated multiple times in subsequent years, and when they did return to the top flight, they rarely made it to the knock-out stages. However, the club won the second division in 1989 and 1992. After winning the French championship in 1933, those were the only additional pieces of silverware LOU managed to add to their trophy cabinet before the turn of the millennium.
The club won three more second-division titles in 2011, 2014, and 2016. After their 2016 D2 triumph, LOU have remained in the Top 14. They have also made some top-four finishes. In 2018, they upset hot favorites FC Toulon to reach the semifinals. However, they could not recreate that feat against Louis Picamoles’ Montpellier HR and suffered a heavy defeat.
LOU had a shot at revenge the following season, and they made good use of it! The Lyon outfit eliminated Montpellier from returning to the semis. But once again, their campaign could not advance further as they lost to Clermont.
LOU won their first European title as they came out on top of Toulon in the European Challenge Cup final in May 2022. On their way to Stade Vélodrome, they had seen off the Wasps, Glasgow Scots, and Worcester.