Toulouse coach on bringing expansive rugby and new game-day experience to Super League

Steven Brady
Toulouse win Million Pound Game

Toulouse coach Sylvain Houles says they will stick to their philosophies and bring more French flair to Super League in 2022.

Their expansive style of rugby has helped them get through the Championship, and the former Huddersfield and Wakefield man has no intention of turning down the razzle-dazzle.

He told Love Rugby League: “It’s in our DNA, it’s in us and we are never going to change, we have recruited players who want to play that style of rugby, players who are footy-smart who know how to react quickly and correctly during games.

“We do want to play the expansive game but there is no risk in the way that we do it, we are in control and know when to turn it on or off.

“We’ve shown that we can play Super-League style, through the middle and go set for set defensively, we’ve beaten Widnes and Hull KR with that kind of rugby, we went to Headingley against Leeds and I believe the score could have been a little bit different if things had gone our way just after half-time in that game so we really believe in ourselves and the way we play the game.

Working on defence

“We will keep going, playing the way we do but the difference will be our defence. We’ve worked really hard on that side of our game, we set ourselves this goal in 2020 and although Covid ruined that season and had a major impact in 2021, we continued to put the effort in week-in, week-out, to improve our defence.

“We’re fully aware that the way we play in attack will give the opposition opportunities to counter so we have focused on our defence and I think you could see that during the last season.”

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Toulouse returned for pre-season training last week, barely five weeks after they sealed promotion to Super League by beating Featherstone in the Championship Grand Final.

Their players who were involved in France’s international against England have been given extra time off.

They are eagerly awaiting the release of the fixtures this week to see who their first ever Super League opposition will be.

Unique Toulouse

Houles is hoping visiting supporters from Super League clubs will enjoy the Toulouse Olympique match-day experience which he describes as “unique”.

He added: “I cannot wait for Super League supporters to come and see what we have here in Toulouse. This stadium and this team is the perfect combination and I think many people will be surprised by the game-day experience at Stade Ernest Wallon.

“It’s the home of (French rugby union giants) Stade Toulousain, but it is also our home and on match-day our colours are all over the LED and tv-screens, it’s a brilliant place to play or watch Rugby League.

“You are so close to the pitch as supporters, you are almost part of the team and the playing surface is one of the best in the world.

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“It’s big, wide and perfectly flat so every team that comes here will have the chance to play fast and expansive Rugby League.

“The acoustics of the stadium create lots of atmosphere and most fans stay long after the game in the Bodega and bars where there is a real party mood.

“Toulouse is a super city with many wonderful people, it’s such a different environment to many other places in the game and if you are coming for the first time you are in for a treat.”

The learning curve for Toulouse Olympique next year in Super League will be very steep and Sylvain Houles will have to draw upon all of his coaching resources to get the very best out of his squad of experienced Super League players and new recruits who have a point to prove.