Provence Rugby: Promotion and Relegation Between Pro D2 and Federale 1
Provence Rugby History and Highlights.
While the club currently plays in Pro D2, the second tier of France’s league system. They have spent some time since the turn of the century in France’s top amateur division, Federale 1.
This is similar to a number of teams that have struggled with stability as they’ve progressed through the leagues. However, the fans of the team from Aix-en Provence will be hoping their recent stint in Pro D2 will a successful one.
Laying the Foundations
Provence Rugby was founded in 1970 and took the name, Aix Rugby Club, in reference to the city they played in. Since then, they have had a number of Presidents, all of whom have impacted the club in one way or another, even if it was just for a short time.
The second President of the club for his part, Louis Simon, laid the foundations of the club. This saw a strong focus on investing resources into the youth system to try and bring success in the long term.
The strategy eventually paid off, and brought Provence success in 1987. They became champions for the first time in their history, winning the third division championship (at the time called Fédérale 3), enabling the club to enter the Second National Division. Unfortunately, this potentially gave fans a dose of false hope that trophies might become a regular occurrence.
In 1995, the club recognized that it needed a restructure and former player Lucien Simon, the son of former President Louis Simon, was chosen as the man to lead this. It didn’t start well as the team were relegated in 1998. However they stuck with the philosophy that Simon believed in as he felt, like his father, that the youth teams will bring them success in the future years.
Unlike his father, the team didn’t have to wait long to see results.
Fighting for Promotion and Against Relegation
In the 2002-03 season, Provence (then named Pays d’Aix Rugby Club) won their group but failed to beat their Quarter-Final opponents. The Quarter-Final defeat gave the players a hard lesson and great experience. A year later, they made use of this experience and, following a hard campaign, were promoted to the second tier of French rugby, Pro D2.
The stay in Pro D2 didn’t last long though, as they were relegated by a single point in the 2005-06 season. They then stayed in the Federale 1 division until 2009 when they finished runners-up, confirming their return to Pro D2 for the 2010-11 season.
The club, nicknamed Le Noir, then fluctuated between leagues, suffering the highs and lows of relegation and promotion like so many before them. By 2018 the team were renamed for a second time, becoming Provence Rugby as they adapted to the change in the landscape and their bid to unite the Aix-Marseille-Provence metropolis.
At the end of the 2018 season, Provence were once again promoted to Pro D2 and finished in a respectable position of 10th. The club’s fans have been delighted to see stability in the team, and they have remained in Pro D2 ever since, even finishing 7th in the 2021-22 season, one place away from the play-offs.
During their early years, the club molded players that would go on to play on the international stage, such as Guillaume Delmotte and Legi Matiu. However as time went on, the team and the academy they ran would start gaining a reputation, providing a persuasive argument for players to develop their skills and career at the club.