USON Nevers Rugby: From Fédérale 3 to the Pro D2
USON Nevers Rugby History and Highlights
USON Nevers is a club that has gone through many changes since its inception. The Nevers outfit currently plays in the Pro D2 and has been knocking on the door of Top 14 lately. Perhaps, the Stade du Pré Fleuri crowd will not have to wait long to cheer for their team against a Top 14 opposition.
At its birth, the club had the name Peloton d’Avant-Garde or PAG. PAG started as a club in 1903 and mostly limited itself to local tournaments before World War I. After the war ended, the club set its sights on expanding its operation.
1923 Structural Changes
In 1923, the club underwent its first structural shake-up. The club took on a new name; USN (Union Sportive Nivernaise). However, the jump to professional levels did not happen overnight. The club had to wait till 1955 to get promoted to the second division.
1955-56 Rebranding and Promotion to Second Division
The 1955/56 season was memorable for USN not only because it was the USON Nevers’ maiden second division campaign. The club also surprised many by progressing to the semifinals of the competition.
Before the dust settled on its outstanding success in the 55/56 season, USN embraced another phase of rebranding. USN merged with Olympique de Nevers in 1956 and became the USON (Union Sportive Olympique Nivernaise).
The club had enjoyed some sporadic success in the second division. It never won the championship, nor did it gain promotion to the top division. But it played some scintillating rugby at times. So, the fans always dared to dream of something big.
The 1970s: A Decline in Form
In the ‘70s, the club saw a sharp decline in its form. As a result, it was relegated to D3 and could not manage to become a dominating force in the division. So, prospects of a D2 return appeared rather bleak.
1979: A Temporary Return to Form
But in 1979, the brilliant trio of Alain Vaquié, Bernard Coudol, and Jean Lartigue spearheaded USON Nevers’ return to the D2. Upon its return, the club nearly propelled itself to a Group B promotion. But, the dream came to a premature end when it lost to Saint-Lary-Soulan.
The 1990s: In and Out of D2
The club could not stay up in the subsequent years. In 1993, Tunisian internationals Jean Hadjkacem and Ezzeddinne Ferjani led USON back to D2. The derby win against Moulins in Saint-Léger-des-Vignes opens the doors of the second division to USON.
The club could not stay up for long and it got relegated again. In 1999, the club made it back to D2, thanks to a 12-match winning streak it put together. But, USON Nevers could not replicate this form in the higher tier.
Fall to Fédérale 3
By 2006-07, USON fell to Fédérale 3. But, the club refused to give in and continued its push for a comeback.
Reclimbing the ranks
USON qualified for Fédérale 2 the next season. In the 2009/10 season, it ensured a place in Fédérale 1.
FFR Changes and Investments in Talent
Impact of FFR Single Pool Format
Since FFR introduced the single pool format, no Burgundy club managed to make it to the D2. The USON hierarchy aimed to make history, and their ambition guided the club inch by inch towards the Promised Land that is the D2.
Investments in Talent
The club invested smartly into the squad and gradually built an excellent team. After coming close a couple of times, USON finally unlocked the gates of D2 in 2017 with a playoff final win over SO Chambéry.
2018: Return to Second Division with Pro D2 Promotion
In the 2017-2018 season, USON made a remarkable entry into the professional world of the French rugby union by finishing 7th at the end of the regular phase of the Pro D2 championship. It had 69 points under its belt, 23 more than the relegated team.
The Yellow and Blues had a fantastic Pro-D2 season in 2021/22 as it progressed to the semifinals. It also had an excellent start to its playoff campaign, as it won against Carcassonne. But defeat against Stade Montois forced it to shelve its hopes of playing Top 14 in the 22/23 season.